I’ll open the site’s section on runs and races with what has been a wonderful event and adventure for me.
This summer I went to the US and I thought about looking up if there were some interesting races in the area.
I stumbled upon the website of a very curios run held on the end of July in the Catskills, a mountainous area a few hours drive north of New York.
The Escarpment Trail Run is a rather short run of just over 18 miles that runs over 3 peaks from Windham to North Lake in Heines Falls… but the website of the run states: Long Distance Experience Required!!
Now that sentence surely caught my attention and also did the photo of last year’s winner
The more I went on reading the more I was intrigued:
THE ESCARPMENT TRAIL RUN IS FOR MOUNTAIN GOATS ONLY!!! The Escarpment Trail is a very remote, rugged hiking trail in the Northern Catskill Mountains in New York State. This single track trail crosses no roads, has total elevation changes of nearly 10,000 feet, and requires all aid to be backpacked in by volunteers. This is not for your average runner but for the runner who trains 12 months a year, and has spent years building a base and gaining long distance experience. Therefore, qualifying standards are required to insure that all participants have experience with endurance events and have a reasonable chance of completing the course within 6 hours.
So this 18 mile run requires you to qualify and upon the qualifying standards:
- Anyone who completed a half-iron man triathlon competition in 6 hours or less.
- Anyone who completed a full iron man triathlon in 13 hours or less.
- Anyone who completed a 50 miler in under 10 hours, a 50K under 5 hours, or a marathon under 4:15. Add 1 1/2 hrs. for a trail race.
I immediately got in touch with the organiser and managed to get in for the 2014th edition… 🙂
Now, I know the Catskill area quite well as I’ve spent some summers there during my childhood. I remember how the mountains there can go up steeply and the terrain in the woods is mostly wet, muddy, and with slippery rocks, roots and boulders. Not to mention that the forest is also home to black bears…
As from the excerpt above the trail goes through 10,000 feet of elevation change without crossing any roads, completely submerged in one of the most beautiful woods I’ve ever been
I arrived in the states only a few days before the run, thus getting up early on that morning was not an issue being still jetlagged.
I arrived early morning at the parking at the end of the run where a bus shuttle was going to bring us to the start.
Slowly the parking started filling up and just as the bus started moving it started to rain and we were blessed with a beautiful rainbow.
By the time we reached the start the weather had completely changed to a torrential summer storm. Seeking shelter from the rain was completely useless so everyone stood on the side of the road in the poring rain, waiting for their turn to start.
The race started in groups divided by expected run time.
I knew that there was no training that could have prepared me for this trail.
I had been running for as much as possible up and down hills in the UK to try to get some vertical in my legs… but this was going to be something different.
After a rather flat start the trail starts going up, and this up often required the use of both hands to climb over boulders.
The up led to more up… and more up. Then it was down… and down. Then up…
Every now and then you could start hearing the partying sounds of the aid stations, where tenacious groups of volunteers always made sure to restore a smile on your face and give you a drink and a bite of something to eat 🙂
The water stations along the run were organised by volunteers who backpacked water and food for hours to get to their designated spot.
All the sudden it stopped raining and the sun started shining leaving us with a beautiful day.
The change in the weather didn’t mean that I dried up: the weight of the rain in my shirt was now replaced with the sweat.
Unexpectedly, I was blessed, I thought, by the sight in the woods of a plane wreck. A small Cessna, I was told by one of the runners, that marks where the trail starts going pretty much downhill until the end.
I was relieved that the easy part was coming. How wrong was I!!
My legs were now tired and they fell like jelly. I was jumping and climbing down rocks, continuously trying to keep my balance and not slip over roots.
Then the most beautiful views opened up as we ran over a cliff outlooking the below planes.
Exhausted I reached the end. A very cheery crowd was greeting all the finishers and there were great refreshments for all.
I didn’t make the time I was hoping for (which was a conservative estimate), my legs were shattered and I got lost a couple times, but as always I had a great smile on my face.
A wonderful atmosphere accompanied the entire race. The organisation was impeccable.
This has been one of the most beautiful runs I’ve ever done, as well as one of the toughest.
I really loved this race and really hope to be in the Catskills in the near future to run it again.
If you want to have an idea of the Escarpment Trail Run here is a short video of the course by Mountain Peak Fitness