Sick of the shoulder-to-shoulder stampedes and endless sponsorship banners? Early winter is a great time to find running races without the crowds.
Run at the Rock
Burlington, N.C. • December 4
Run one or two laps on this tough seven-mile loop course at Cedarock Park in the North Carolina Piedmont. Hit the trails with a few hundred faithful for a hearty haul through rock gardens, mud patches, and plenty of short and stout rolling hills.
Bedford, Va. • December 11
Applications are necessary to get into this race. Ultra running legend David Horton decides who gets to take on his sadistic creation—a rugged slog through the chilly backcountry in pitch-black darkness. The race starts at 12:01 a.m. from Natural Bridge Station and ruts down the Virginia Blue Ridge to Fincastle. Along the way, the 100 or so runners that make the cut deal with single-digit temps, frigid water crossings, and an icy roller coaster of monster climbs and rocky descents.
Seashore Nature Trail 50K
Virginia Beach, Va. • December 18
The Tidewater’s first ultra runs through the flat seaside woods of First Landing State Park. If you’re looking for an ultra PR, you’ll have relatively mild temps and few hills as you stroll through marshy swampland and maritime forest on the coast of Virginia. The race is limited to just 250 runners.
Freedom Park New Year’s Ultra
Morganton, N.C. • December 31
Run straight into 2011. Back by popular demand, this low-key ultra on New Year’s Eve features 24 hours of straight running in the shadow of the Black Mountains at Freedom Park in Morganton, N.C. Runners start at 8am and complete as many loops as possible on a one-mile smooth asphalt lap. Six- and 12-hour options start later in the evening so all runners get the all-night experience. Bundle up—last year’s field was treated to chilly temps and snow showers.
FAT ASS FUN
Fat Ass runs are low-key, non-competitive organized outings typically geared for long-distance runners. Although you don’t have to worry about passing the person next to you, make sure you’re up to the challenge. Organizers won’t take your money, but they also won’t take your whining.
There’s no fee to enter, no free t-shirt, no awards, and usually no course aid, so be ready to cover the distance. In the metro D.C. area the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club leads the Magnus Gluteus Maximus at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Clifton, Va., on December 11. vhtrc.org.
The North Carolina Fat Ass (January 2) is an informal 50K on the All American Trail on Fort Bragg.
Down south on January 9, Alex’s Fat Ass 50K starts in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and winds past salt marshes and beach communities before taking a tour of Charleston. alexruns.com
Find hundreds of events at blueridgeoutdoors.com/regional-events, home of the country’s largest calendar.