In Ask the Trail Sisters

I’ve run my first 50k and am now getting ready to pump up to the 50 mile distance!

Is there a good beginner-ish 50 mile race you can recommend?



trail-sister-heidi-kummHeidi: Honestly, any race hosted by an RD/race organization with a good reputation will be a blast. If you are part of a local trail running group check with them — any race where you know a lot of people is worth running + something I’d recommend for your first time at a longer distance because you’ll be constantly coming across familiar, encouraging faces. Also, consider the terrain — if you aren’t strong on technical + steep ascents/descents then pick a flatter course + if you really struggle with long stretches of runnable terrain pick a more mountainous course.

I can only speak for races in the Colorado area, but I’d recommend the Quad Rock 50M as a mountainous race, the North Fork 50M for a mix of terrain + the Bear Chase 50M for very runnable course.

Lisa: I’m in the same boat, and am planning on the Rocky Raccoon 50 miler in February. It’s beautiful, wooded, and relatively flat. Plus, Texas is awesome! The people here are kind, helpful, and fun to be around. You’ll make lots of friends at camp, and on the trail. Maybe I’ll see you there!



Katie: When choosing to conquer a new distance, the best question to ask yourself is what you are most motivated by. Is it beautiful terrain, seeing something new or the feeling of really traversing the distance?  If so, pick a destination you want to explore and a point-to-point or giant loop course.  I’ve found some of my favorite races by seeing a photo of a particular place and saying, “I wonder if there is a race there?” and then just googling it. (This day and age, there usually is!)  Is it the distance itself, and do you draw motivation from your training partners and trail community?  Choose a more local race, and consider a course with either loops or easy crew access.  I always enjoy running races in the mountains close to home, because there are friendly faces at every aid station to help pull me through.

Trail Sister Katelynn WagnerKatelynn: I LOVE Finger Lakes Fifthies 50 miler! It is a beautiful course up here in the Finger Lakes of NY, I would highly recommend it for a first 50 miler. It is done on a 16.5 mile loop course, with only 1,290′ of gain per loop (3,870’ish for the entire 50 miles.) It is really well organized with 5 aid stations throughout the loop, and the 6th aid station being the “living room” station at the start/finish area. Having that many aid stations, and coming back into camp that often makes it really easy to stay prepared and means you don’t have to worry about carrying everything you need for the entire 50 miles. This race takes place at the beginning of July each year, and is very popular. This year it sold out in less than an hour so its not a bad idea to hover over the register button when it opens. If you ever do decide to run this race, or find yourself in the Finger Lakes area, let a Trail Sister know! You’ll always have a local running partner happy to show you around the trails! Good luck conquering the distance!

Sophie SpeidelSophie: How exciting! There is nothing more fun than testing a new distance. You have gleaned a lot of good lessons from your 50K training and the 50 mile distance is a logical leap. In terms of what 50 miler to enter, I think it depends on where you live (or want to travel), and what you love — do you love mountain trails with long climbs and descents, or rolling singletrack with lots of running? Are you comfortable on technical trails or want something smoother and more “runnable?” On the east coast, I would recommend the Bull Run Run 50. The BRR50 is organized by the Virginia Happy Trails Club (VHTRC) and they know how to put on a top-notch race from start to finish. BRR has a lot of lovely rolling singletrack and a generous time limit of 12 hours. If mountain running is more your thing, you must try the Mountain Masochist 50 in the mountains west of Lynchburg. A combination of single track, fire roads and pavement, along with long climbs and a few technical sections make “Masochist” a worthy challenge. If you are looking for a western 50, I love the Bighorn 50. It is actually a 52 miler that has a net downhill on gorgeous trails in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. The 52 mile is part of the 100, 50K, and 18 miler line-up that draw many runners year after year. The entire town of Dayton, WY supports the event and the post-run celebration along with the finishers of the other distances, can’t be beat! Best wishes as you tackle the 50+ mile distance — it’s a perfect way to spend the day!

Tara H: I agree that what is considered “beginner-friendly” will depend on what kind of course you favour. I’m of two minds about choosing a local race vs. one further afield: local means you can reduce the uncertainties of traveling, eating different food than you may be used to, etc… but then again traveling somewhere to race is such a fun adventure! You can go on UltraSignup and search for races in the month you want to run the 50 miler, and in whatever location you prefer. Then do some research into the ones that stand out to you: what’s the terrain like? The elevation? Is it a “runnable” course? Is there great scenery along the way? Have people written glowing blog posts about the race? That way you can choose the perfect race for you. Good luck!


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