Watoga welcomes trail runners

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A runner on the single track forest trail during the 2016 Watoga State Park 5K and Half Marathon Mountain Trail Challenge in Pocahontas County. This year, the event will be held Saturday, Aug. 12.

The Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge 5K and Half Marathon trail races take place Saturday, Aug. 12, starting and finishing at Watoga’s Beaver Creek Campground. Course maps, elevation graphs and registration details are available at http://www.watogafoundation.org/race. All proceeds benefit the park through the Watoga State Park Foundation.

Online sign-up ends Wednesday, Aug. 9, but contestants can register in person on race day, starting at 7 a.m. This year there is also early packet pickup, registration, and volunteer check-in at two locations on Friday, Aug. 11: at the Dirt Bean Café and Bike Shop on Third Avenue in Marlinton from 4 to 5 p.m., and then at Beaver Creek Campground from 6 to 7 p.m. There is overflow camping available Friday night on the grassy airstrip at Beaver Creek, with a nice view of the Perseid meteor shower (weather permitting). Runners circle the airstrip at the start of their races before heading off on single-track forest trails. The half marathon starts at 8:30 a.m., and the 5K at 8:40 a.m. Saturday morning.

The park foundation is calling for volunteers to help with the six aid stations and three road crossing locations, as well as pointing direction at trail junctions and serving lunch after the races. Contestants and volunteers get free lunch, and donations from spectators will be gratefully received. Last year, 118 runners participated, and the early sign-ups this year suggest a bigger turnout. Chip timing will be provided by Appalachian Timing Group.

There are great places to view the runners along the 13.1 mile half marathon route. Spectators can find maps and suggested locations at Park HQ and the Beaver Creek Campground. One of the best ways to see the race is to be involved. Sign up to run or to volunteer!