Every race comes a story, an experience, an adventure. My experience for run for gold is very personal and, after a first good experience overall, brought me to sign up again this year. This is a metric marathon, 16.28 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage, from Meyersdale in Pennsylvania to Frostburg in Maryland. Yup, you get the chance to cross two different states on your feet within 2 hours!
This is a very cheap race: $16 per person. For this price, no bag filled with goodies but a water stop at mid-way with pretzel, water, a bus trip from the finish to the start and a finisher medal. Obviously, it is difficult to beat such a good deal. Being in August, this is a great time to discover this part of the trail at a very reasonable price!
Where to stay
I stayed at the Trail Inn in Frostburg. Very convenient, this is located next to the finish line and where the bus pick you in the morning. The Inn has a lot of bedrooms for different budgets: shared beds (for about $35) , private rooms (about $100) or bunk beds (about $120 for a room with 4 bunk beds). It includes breakfast as well. While I had a good experience from the previous year, I have mixed feelings on this one. The Inn is pretty good and the owner very accommodating. On the other hand, the staff from the Cafe (Olive Cafe) is terrible. But it turns out that the cafe is operated by a different company than the Inn. In fact, we asked before coming if having breakfast was possible in the morning and we had confirmation that is was totally possible. In addition, the documents from the Inn states that you can request to have a breakfast basket if you are planning to have your breakfast outside the regular hours. However, the Cafe staff complained about us for asking too much and, the morning of the race, complained that we were too demanding (reason invoked: “This was too early”). That sounded just inappropriate and rude considering that the request that (1) made weeks ago before coming and (2) the Inn documentation insisted that having early breakfast was feasible on request.
Another people reported that the Cafe staff complained when the train came at 8pm the night before and discussed about closing their space. In fact, this place is close to an old train station, so, old trains sometimes show up (and bring people and potential business). Very confusing to see business owners complaining for having potential customers. It sounds like this place is not very friendly and does not welcome new business. You would probably better walk away and go somewhere else.
The takeaway: go to the hotel but do not give your business to the Cafe! The owners of the Inn are definitively nice persons and accommodating (thanks for the late checkout!) but the Cafe staff is just not worth it!
The race itself starts around 0730am but you have to take a bus to go to the starting line. The bus leaves at 0640am in the morning from Frostburg to go to the start at Meyersdale. The commute takes about 40 minutes and the race starts right after the bus drops everybody. We started the race at 0740am. Then, you go along the Great Allegheny Passage, part of the trail that goes from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. For information, there is some bathrooms at the start if you need. There are some also along the course but I do not remember how many.
As last year, the race is wonderful. If the weather is collaborative, it is a great experience to run through the bridges and the trails in the morning, see the sun shining and continue your journey to the finish.
At mile 8 (half way), there is a water stop where you will find water, snacks (pretzels) and the usual stuff you can expect at a aid-station. Pretty simple but efficient. When stopping, I was chocked to see the Race Director. As there were no volunteer, the guy did the water stop himself.
Then, you continue and go through several tunnels. One does not have any light which can be confusing after a couple of miles. But nothing really important.
The elevation profile is not terrible. In fact, you have to be prepared to go mostly uphills for the first eight miles and have a more easy race for the second part. So, you have to push a little bit more in the first part of the race and finally keep the same pace on the downhill (which is more easy for most people).
Something that might help: the aid station/water stop is just at the end of the up-hill section. So, you can push, rest for a sec and head to the finish without any stress and/or need for food!
To go to the finish line, you have to make a turn and go uphill. There as a big discussion last year because there was no sign to turn. In fact, it turned out that I missed the turn last year, which was unfortunate because it cost me a place in the results (bummer!). Hopefully, the race director, Kevin, took into consideration our proposition to put a sign to alert runners to turn and there was a simple sign so that nobody can get lost.
When you finish, you have a nice wood medal. That was requested by other runners last year and the race director followed the runners recommendation! Last year, there was only awards for people that placed in their age group, which can be frustrated for slower runners, especially for a race like this where the emphasis is more on the training. This year, no matter your pace, you got a medal, no matter how you did.
Also, at the finish line, there is food (pretzel, bananas, apple) and beverages (water and Gatorade). Definitively enough to refuel and come back home happy with a nice training in your running log!
Several volunteers took pictures over the course. Some before the long tunnel, other (like the Race Director) at the finish. The pictures are posted for free on the race website. So, even with such a cheap event, you do not have to purchase expensive pictures! You can for sure purchase the high definition of the pictures but the Potomac Highlands Distance Club lets you use the low-def at no price. And they do not add any copyright or noise on the preview so that you can use them. This sounds very fair: you can get a picture of you to post on social media or your website and, in case you really want to make a poster or a print version, you can still pay a reasonable price. If other races could do the same, it would be really appreciated …
If you are looking for the links for the pictures, you can access them here:
To my Steel City Road Runners for being part of this journey. Also, special thanks to the race director, Kevin. The guy took into consideration all the concerns expressed by the participants of last year. He made everything possible to make a good race at a very affordable price. He improved the race, without him, this race would not have been the same.
Run for Gold 2015?
It seems that the Race Director will not continue this race but some folks are planning to continue it. So, if you want to run this race, I recommend it. For less than $20, having a timed course over the Great Allegheny Passage with a finished medal: you cannot beat that.
- Mapmyrun workout: http://www.mapmyrun.com/workout/684488789
- Event page: http://www.phdispatch.com/run-for-gold-26-2k/
- The pictures are from the Potomac Highlands Distance Club, thanks for letting us use them!
- Other race report by Catlin from Steel City Road Runners