About 70 runners will set off on Saturday to cover 63.15 miles, including 7,994 feet of ascent and 8,169 feet of descent, through two counties as part of the Ironstone 100K Ultra.
The race, created by Ben Mazur, president of Allegheny Trail Runners and vice president of the nonprofit Eastern States Trail – Endurance Alliance (ESTEA), will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County and will end 23 hours later in Greenwood. Furnace State Park in northern Huntingdon County.
George Conrad, secretary of the ESTEA board of directors and president of the Standing Stone Trail Club, and Kevin Busko, volunteer coordinator for the Mid State Trail region, were appointed trail leaders in preparation for the race.
The race route follows Rails to Trails for 21 miles. Once runners reach Alfarata Station near Alexandria, the course follows the Mid State Trail to Barree Township and climbs Tussey Mountain into the Little Juniata Nature Area at dusk.
Runners will then continue to the Alan Seeger Natural Area along the Greenwood Spur of the Standing Stone Trail around dawn Sunday morning. They continue to Greenwood Furnace State Park to arrive before the 1 p.m. deadline.
“The contrast between the railroad and the notoriously rocky, night-crossing hiking trails and changes in elevation make the run particularly challenging,” Conrad said.
Allegheny Trail Runners donated to the Route 22 underpass built to connect the Lower Trail to Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County. Conrad said it was a way of acknowledging this important addition.
“This race is about bringing something different to the area and celebrating the great trails we have,” Conrad said. “This race should be of interest to people as it will be a great test of the runners’ endurance on such a brutal course.”
Conrad said this race is different from marathon type running. To train, he said runners typically cover miles and have the ability to cross rocks as quickly as possible in the dark while using a headlamp. There will be aid stations, but he said runners should be comfortable on their own and carry personal supplies.
“Being ready for such a journey takes a lot of preparation, but the reward of finishing can be truly life changing,” Conrad said. “This race is tough. I ran from Alfarata station to the end, in the spring during the day, and it still took me 13.5 hours. If things go well, there should be very little impact on the riders other than good memories.
In addition to several local runners, there are people traveling from 15 states and three countries. An almost equal number of volunteers will help.
Scheduled as an annual event, the race’s inaugural year has high hopes for growth. Stuckey Subaru of Hollidaysburg is sponsoring this race. It is organized by the Allegheny Trailrunners Board of Directors in partnership with ESTEA. Conrad said it was a great offer from nonprofits to promote the area.
“The course is very difficult and the event is well organised. It’s a great event to promote the community, our trails, the Rothrock State Forest and state parks,” he said.