Four businesses in Seebert and Mill Point have stepped up to help sponsor the third annual Mountain Trail Challenge. Barnett Cabins, The Lodge on the Greenbrier River, Hummingbird House and Greenbrier Cabins have joined inaugural sponsors, DirtBean and Jack Horner’s Corner, to bring trail runners to Watoga for 5K and half marathon trail races.
All proceeds benefit the park through the Watoga State Park Foundation.
Each race sponsor receives two free race entry forms to use themselves or transfer to friends or employees. Some forms are donated back to the foundation, and this year those free registrations will go to young runners in Pocahontas County through a program coordinated by Cully McCurdy. This is an expansion of a practice started by Stewart and Crissy Horner of Jack Horner’s Corner in 2016, when they sponsored Pocahontas County High School student Conner Pyles, who took second overall in the 5K race. There are eight slots available. Interested runners can contact Cully McCurdy by email at cullymccurdy @gmail.com or phone at 304-799-4762.
The half marathon and 5K start in the cool of the morning – 8:30 and 8:40 a.m., respectively. 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. It’s Watoga in a microcosm – streamside tunnels of hemlocks, colonnades of pines along the edge of the airstrip, hardwoods on a ridgetop, and dense green rhododendrons along Beaver Creek.
The half marathon is the big picture. This is the way to see Watoga, and there’s a lot to see. The park has enough trails for three different half marathon courses, and this year’s course may be the best selection. Again, it’s run on beautiful park trails – no bush-whacking here either – but let’s not mince words, it’s 13.1 miles with a couple or three mountains in the way – a true mountain trail challenge.
There are six aid stations, with water, electrolyte drinks and snacks for contestants. At the finish line back 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. Online registration at www.aptiming.com/race/ 605 ends Wednesday, August 8, but you may register on race day from 7 to 8 a.m.