TRAIL RUNNING

RED TOP RUMBLE
cartersville, georgia
february 3, 2013

The race itself is on a figure eight trail system on a peninsula of Allatoona Lake. This 11.5-mile course is fast and flowy; hills are numerous but with only the occasional steep climb. Racers rave about the well-maintained trails and the views of the lake along the course. Vendors host raffles and giveaways and hand out hot cocoa and soup to finishers and spectators, crucial for this February event. getguts.com

SMOKY MOUNTAIN RELAY
brevard, north carolina
april 19-20, 2013

Get off your asphalt and run the region’s toughest trail relay—a 212-mile traverse of the most dramatic landscapes in Southern Appalachia. Six- and 12-person teams trek through the night, traveling in vans to relay exchanges, en route to the finish at the Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City, N.C. Along the way, runners splash through mountain streams and follow scenic singletrack and Forest Service fire roads with stunning vistas of Looking Glass Rock, Shining Rock Wilderness, Cold Mountain, and the Great Smokies. smokymountainrelay.com

HIGHLANDS SKY 40 MILE TRAIL RUN
davis, west virginia
june 15, 2013

The point-to-point course with 5,400 feet of elevation gain highlights the most beautiful scenery West Virginia has to offer, including Roaring Plains, the Dolly Sods Wilderness, and Canaan Valley State Park. “It’s very rocky the first half, a lot of climbing and really technical,” says Mark Lundblad, one of the region’s top ultra runners. “The second half opens up a little bit.” The signature section traces the Road Across the Sky, a long, exposed uphill section that is a psychological strain because it is open enough to see the seven miles of trail ahead of you. The Highlands Sky also has the distinction of being one of only a handful of races that are permitted to utilize designated wilderness, a distinction that race organizers take seriously. Every spring they head out into the Dolly Sods to perform trail maintenance using only hand tools like axes, saws, and shovels. wvmtr.org

STUMPJUMP 50K
chattanooga, tennessee
october 5, 2013

For the past 11 years, the Rock/Creek StumpJump 50K has been testing the mettle of trail runners on Chattanooga’s renowned Signal Mountain singletrack. One of the premier trail ultra runs in the Southeast, drawing the best runners from the region in its field of over 500. Over the 31-mile course, runners encounter everything from smooth, packed singletrack to swinging bridges and rock stairs—not to mention the mile-long, boulder-hopping rock garden. The varied terrain, fickle weather, and 4,500 feet of climbing prevent runners from getting into rhythm, making this race more taxing than it first appears. rockcreek.com/stumpjump

MOUNTAIN MASOCHIST 50-MILER
montebello, virginia
november 2, 2013

It’s all right there in the name: masochist, mountain, miler, 50. Put them all together in the right order and you’re in for a world of hurt. For three decades, that world of hurt has been punishing runners in this race in the George Washington National Forest outside Lynchburg, Va. Runners begin their quest under the cover of darkness, but those strong enough to gain the ridge by daybreak are greeted with a sunrise that can stop you in your tracks – just don’t or you may be run over. Combining road, jeep trail, and single track, the race route is relatively tame for the first 25 miles; after that, the abuse really begins. The course has over 9,000 feet of climbing, and most of it comes in the second half of the race, including a sadistic loop to the top of Mount Pleasant and back. Luckily, the course traverses some of the most beautiful scenery in the Appalachians, and the final three-mile push for the finish line is a downhill cruise. eco-xsports.com

SHUT-IN RIDGE TRAIL RUN
asheville, north carolina
november 2, 2013

The Shut-In Trail climbs 5000 feet and descends 2000 feet, making for punishing climbs and hair-raising descents. Competitors are truly tested over the final two miles before the finish, when the Shut-In Ridge Trail seems to go straight up. The trail parallels and crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway several times during its ascent of Mount Pisgah, making this race very spectator friendly and a rare opportunity to cheer on runners at several points in the race. jusrunning.com

Best of the Rest

Uwharrie 40-Mile Mountain Run
Ophir, North Carolina
February 2, 2013bullcityrunning.com

Bel Monte 50k
Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia
April 20, 2013belmonteraces.com

Promise Land 50k
Bedford, Virginia
April 27, 2013extremeultrarunning.com

Scenic City Trail Half
Chattanooga, Tennessee
May 18, 2013rockcreek.com

Massanutten Mountain 100
Massanutten, Virginia
May 18-19, 2013vhtrc.com

James River Scramble 10k presented by Goal Zero
Richmond, Virginia
May 18, 2013dominionriverrock.com

Eastern Divide Ultra 50K
Mountain Lake, Virginia
June 22, 2013easterndivideultra.com

Springmaid Splash 10k
Spruce Pine, North Carolina
August TBD, 2013mitchellraces.com

New River Trail Challenge
Foster Falls, Virginia
September 21, 2013dcr.virginia.gov

For more great Race Ahead information check out these sections:

Snowsports

Trail Running

Road Running

Mountain Biking

Road Cycling

Climbing

Paddling

Hiking

Multisport

Superlatives