3rd Annual Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Race Challenge is August 11th, 2018
The beautiful mountain trails of Watoga State Park in Pocahontas County will be drumming with the sounds of many a running shoe hitting the ground Saturday August 11th, as the park plays host to the 3rd Annual Watoga Mountain Trail Challenge races. Two race options will be available that day, a 5k or 3.1 mile race and a half marathon or 13.1 mile race, both starting at the Beaver Creek Campground. The event is a fundraiser for the Watoga State Park Foundation, a non-profit that supports programs, events and amenities in the park. Cully McCurdy, a trail racer himself, explains how the event got started.
“The Watoga State Park Foundation formed 4 years ago,” he said, “and we had looked at different options for a major fundraiser,” he said . “And at that time the popularity of trail racing was evident at other state parks across the state. We looked at that as an option and thought it was just a great way to showcase the park.”
McCurdy said they knew from the outset it would take a few years to establish the race and attract larger crowds of participants. The number of entries for the race this year is estimated to be around 150, or a little more than double that of the first year. Help with planning for the initial race and the courses came from someone who won’t be at the race this year, but whose presence will surely be felt.
“We reached out and got help actually from Mike Stennes who unfortunately won’t be with us this year, we lost him to a tragic accident back in July,” said McCurdy. “Mike would not be one to see a damper on this race because this was something that he was just instrumental in starting and he loved to run and he’ll be us there in spirit.”
“From a personal note, I started trail running about 4 years ago and training, diet, shoes, all the different things, how to prevent injuries – for me personally was just so enthusiastic in helping me go from road running to try trail running. If there was ever a pillar of the community or an unsung hero that was in the background, Mike was that guy.”
This being the Mountain state, you would expect the race courses to be somewhat up and down. McCurdy gives us an idea of what racers will encounter on the half marathon course.
“There’s three significant climbs and three significant descents for the course,” he said. “And if you’re a profile person that races, which if you race you want to know profiles, I would recommend that you just google the Watoga Mountain Trail Challenge and there’s links to the race and there’s very defined elevation data on that website.”
The 5K race does have about a half mile ascent into the Cal Price forest and is very narrow in some places as it weaves through the rhododendron forest and across streams. But McCurdy said it serves as a very nice introduction to trail running. As you might imagine, trail running is very different from road running.
“The road running, you can get into a definitive rhythm in your running, and your breathing – a lot of people have different breathing techniques to where it’s very structured and you just get into a zone,” said McCurdy. “Trail running, to me it’s a modified wreck for 13.1 miles (laughter) – I mean it’s just a controlled crash!”
All that controlled crashing is for a good cause, the Watoga State Park Foundation.
“We work with the park administration to see what there management objectives are, just to provide additional amenities to the guests in Pocahontas County, more specifically to Watoga State Park,” said McCurdy. “Right now we’re working on the final plans for a miniature golf course [and] there’s also a permanent stage or performing area; it’ll be used for Arts in the Park, the Labor Day event that we have at Watoga. We want to look at the broad spectrum of what the park needs to be better involved to attract people and to where we can showcase the beauty that we have here in the county.”
The 3rd Annual Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge Race is Saturday, August 11th. Racers may still enter either race on the morning of the event. Both the 5K and the half marathon will depart from the Beaver Creek campground with the half marathon beginning at 8:30am and the 5K at 8:40am. Volunteers are welcome to help with the event. You’ll find more information about the race at the website www.watogafoundation.org.