What is a good 50k race for a newbie ultra trail runner, and why?
(featured image courtesy of Chuckanut 50k)
Katelynn: Finger Lakes Fifties 50k is a fantastic first ultra! It takes place the first weekend in July in Hector, NY (just outside of Ithaca) it is a beautiful course with waterfalls and beautiful views. It only has about 2,400ft of gain for the entire race. It sold out within 3.5 hours this year, so its best to get in there right away!
I also like to suggest the race that was my first ultra, Table Rock Ultras
in Marion, NC. It is a bit tougher with 6,000ft of gain for the course, but the views are GORGEOUS! Most of the gain comes in the 2 miles up Table Rock Mountain, and the rest is rolling. The RD’s are on it and put on a fantastic race. TRU is the best supported race I’ve ever done, which matters a lot when it’s your first go.
Shameless plug – The Chuckanut 50k
was my first and I am now the race director (this will be my 15th year as RD). I think the course, the number of aid stations, the history, the organization and our community that rallies around the event makes for an awesome first 50k.
There are so many great races out there. I would suggest a race that is known for providing good support through aid stations and perhaps has easy access for your fan club to cheer you on. Things I would try to avoid on a first 50k would be: multi-loops, water crossings and maybe no cell service. Maybe we should start a yelp for races?!?
Bree: Way Too Cool 50k is one of the most popular 50k races in the country. Many first time ultrarunners head out West to test their legs on this course. It’s relatively flat and well supported. The trails are well groomed and allows for a good first ultra experience. RD Julie Fingar does a fine job of organizing this event.
There are so many great courses out there! Honestly it’s tough to discredit any of them by saying one is better than the other. Have you thought about what you’re looking for in your first 50K course? Are you really excited about vertical, hills, and the potential for speed hiking? I live in Portland, Oregon where we’re surrounded by anything, and everything you could ever dream of wanting out of your first ultra! Mt. Hood 50K
offers up a very, “runable” out and back course. Smith Rock 50K
in Bend, Oregon will give you moderate climbing, and a really unique high desert race experience. I love jumping over rattle snakes to keep my blood pumping! The Rut 50K
in Montana is EPIC if you’re looking to go big or go home for your first crack at the 50K distance. Shop around. Read blog posts. Help yourself identify what you want out of the race, and then sign up, get training, and GET STOKED!
A lot of factors go into this, namely what you’re looking to put into + get out of the race. When I made the jump from road running to trail running I opted for a relatively flat race with a lot of local support. The race I ran as my first trail ultra [Bear Chase 50K
] was literally in my backyard + aggressively supported by so many people I knew from trail + road running. Hit up you local running store or favorite trail running group + see what they support/love in the area…they’ll know the good races/race directors + offer up great advice. Personally, I’m really glad I opted for a more “road-like” first ultra, simply because it gave me an opportunity to gain a little confidence. Since then I’ve moved on to steep, technical mountain races. That’s the beauty of trail running — there is an insane amount of variety.