Trail runners return to Watoga

The second annual Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge half marathon and 5K trail races will take place Saturday, Aug. 12.

Last year, 118 runners took part, and they had high praise for the beautiful Watoga trails and the welcome they received from race volunteers.

The winner of the half marathon, Daniel McDowell, wrote, “I can’t even begin to say enough about this event, the volunteers, and the entire crew who had a part in making this event happen, absolutely unbelievable down to the last detail. Watoga State Park is an extraordinary jewel and having a half marathon and 5K to highlight some of its appeal doesn’t even begin to show all that this area has to offer.”

The half marathon and 5K start in the cool of the morning – 8:30 and 8:40 a.m., respectively, and both use the grassy airstrip at Beaver Creek Campground to let the pack of runners spread out, but once they enter the forest, the challenges presented are quite different. The 5K course is the perfect introduction to trail running for those who’ve been wanting to try it – streamside tunnels of hemlocks, colonnades of pines along the edge of the airstrip, hardwoods on a ridge top, and dense green rhododendrons along Beaver Creek – all designed to be accessible. While there is some elevation gain, much of the course is flat.

The half marathon is run on beautiful park a few mountains in the way, a true mountain trail challenge.

This year number of aid stations is increased to six, with water, electrolyte drink, and both sweet and salty snacks for contestants. At the finish line at Beaver Creek there is lunch for racers and volunteers.

Race maps, elevation graphs, and registration links can be found at www.watogafoundation.org/race. Early discount registration is available in the month of June, and runners can save more by using the mail-in registration form.

All proceeds benefit the park through the Watoga State Park Foundation.

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