Marathon Race Description
26-Mile Race Description (26.0 miles and 6235 feet of climb and 12,470 feet of elevation change.)
Section 1 – Blue Knob All Seasons to Hairpin (2.2 miles | +360 ft./-100 ft.)
Starting at the Clubhouse at Blue Knob Four Seasons Resort at 2736 feet, runners will follow a rocky singletrack past the Tubing Park, along Pavia Road then across from the ski chalet. Runners will cross the road which dips into the woods behind the chalet and down a gravel service road to the paved hairpin turn up to ski slopes. There is no aid station here unlike in past years.
Section 2 – Hairpin to Pavia Aid Station (5.1 miles | +180 ft./-1807 ft.)
26 milers’ runners will cross the road and onto a blue-blazed connecting singletrack for 0.7 miles to Tower Road. Runners will turn right on the road and run toward the radio towers at the top of Herman Point at 3014 feet (3 miles in the race). Lost Turkey Trail will be on the left; racers will take this down the mountain and across Blue Knob Road (be careful of vehicle traffic). Runners will continue onto Lost Turkey Trail on the left just before the guard rail. The trail continues downhill until reaching an old logging trail. This section from Herman Point to the old logging trail, called Herman Steps and Blister Blaster, is one of the steepest descents of the race, dropping over 600 feet in 0.7 miles. Racers will turn left and continue on the logging road/Lost Turkey Trail for 0.7 miles to the campgrounds. This section is very flat and offers a chance for your quads to recover. Runners will go around the Blue Knob State Park Campgrounds before turning left around the southern end of the campgrounds and then a right onto Chappells Field Trail. Chappells Field Trail is a wide trail toward Pavia Road. At Pavia Road (mile 5.1), runners will cross the road, bearing left onto an access trail before making a right onto Crist Trail. The forest will vary from new growth, to damp pines, to high canopy of second and third-growth forest. The trail will eventually cross Pavia/Knob Road (at 6.1 miles) again about halfway down the mountain then runs atop the ridge until banking to the left. Crist Ridge Trail will make a last final drop into the valley – first a fast and straight section before banking to the right and then several switchbacks to Pavia/Knob Road. This downhill will be the fastest section of the course. Also this section is the longest single downhill of the race with a total fall of 859 feet in 2.6 miles. Runners would have dropped 1800 feet since Herman Point.
Section 3 – Pavia Aid Station to Chappelle Aid Station – water/electrolyte drinks/snacks (4.2 miles | +1300 ft. / -450 ft.)
Racers will cross Pavia/Knob Road (at 7.3 miles) and here will be a full aid station. Then racers will run up a section of single track with Pavia Run on the left before making a sharp right up Rock ‘N Ridge Trail and up the spine of the ridge. Overall, there is a climb on both ends of this trail, at the beginning and just before the turn to the right at the top. Runners will now run along the mountain before making a left and dropping down into Pavia Run for 0.8 miles. When you reach the bottom, it will be at mile 10 of the course. The course will turn make a sharp right and up the western fork of Pavia Run before making a slight left and then up out of the hollow. After making another sharp right, runners will be near Chappell Field on the left. At the top of the field is an aid station and you are at mile 11.4. Expect only water at this station.
Section 4 – Chappelle Field Aid Station to Ravens Rest Aid Station. (2.6 miles | +400 ft. / -575 ft.)
From the aid station, runners will glide on a flat double track a quarter-mile until an intersection with a paved service road and several trails. Take the uppermost trail – for the race we call it Upper Ridge Trail (marked Rock ‘N Ridge Trail though on a different section of trail from earlier). Enjoy some flat yet mildly technical singletrack for a half-mile before going around a hollow and then the course turns sharply up Deep Hollow at mile 12.8. The course follows an abandoned trail to the top of the mountain. It’s steep yet short … 400 feet in 0.4 miles. At the top the course will merge onto a mountain bike trail and descend all the way to Sawmill Trail. This downhill is steep and somewhat eroded, dropping more than 500 feet in 0.6 miles. The course will now be on Sawmill Trail, a double track, and will bear to the left around a parking area before emerging out of the woods. Runners will run down the field to Raven Rest Aid Station at 14.2 miles.
Section 5 – Raven Rest AS to Hairpin AS (4 miles | +1410 feet / -570 ft.)
This will be the most physically demanding and mentally challenging section of the course. Runners will climb the remote southeastern flank of the mountain. The first half mile is up the mountain to 2570 feet, then along the 2500 foot contour for about six-tenths of a mile, then down 500 feet in a half of a mile to Beaver Dam Run at 15.72 miles into the race. This entire section includes steep slopes requiring runners to be able to stop on a dime to avoid seriously technical and jagged rocks along the narrow single track. THEN reaching Beaver Dam Canyon, runners will climb up the hollow up Beaver Dam Run to the top of the mountain with “rock step climbing” almost the entire 971 feet in 0.79 miles out of the hollow. The biofilm-covered rocks on this entire climb are very slippery. Be sure to enjoy the dry waterfall you will cross. Eventually you will cross a dirt road (Three Springs Trail) but the climbing is not over.
Runners will cross Three Springs Trail (at 16.6 miles) and continue up the mountain for just two-tenths of a mile. At the top is a beautiful section called the ‘Stone Pads’, a flat section of stone stepping on the singletrack. Then the trail will become less technical and will follow the trail along the edge of the summit (clockwise), past Pavia Overlook on the left. After a section of straight singletrack, runners will make a hard left, down a short hill and then bear to the right before arriving at the dirt state forest road. Here you will make a left turn. The road will end at Pavia Road where a water-only aid station will be setup.
Runners will cross Three Springs Trail (at 16.6 miles) and continue up the mountain for just two-tenths of a mile. At the top is a beautiful section called the ‘Stone Pads’, a flat section of stone stepping on the single track. Then the trail will become less technical and will follow the trail along the edge of the summit (clockwise), past Pavia Overlook on the left. After a section of straight singletrack, runners will make a hard left, down a short hill and then bear to the right before arriving at the dirt state forest road. Make a left.The road will end at Pavia Road, here is an aid station with water-only.
Section 6 – Hairpin AS to Resort (2.9 miles | +535 ft. / -830 ft.)
Runners will run to the lodge via a powerline, cross a service shed, a parking area and then up a bank to the lodge. Runners will go behind the lodge (right side of the lodge) and will be offered a tremendous view toward the northeast at the top of the ski lifts. Runners will then proceed down Upper Mambo ski slope. At the bottom, runners will have the condos on the right as they continue down the slope and yield left and down a steep slope called Edge Set. After a short break, runners will go down Stembogen ski slope before running toward a “hole in the forest” and down an old logging road. Then it is a steep scramble up the mountain called “I Need a Sherpa”. You will probably bitch fiercely to us about it. However, we would rather give you a challenge that you will be talking about long after the race.
Now on top of the ridge, you will run toward the condos then make a left through some “small rock potatoes” and past the maintenance shed and to the aid station. Here, so close to the finish, you’d might be tempted to drop.
Section 7 – The Final 10K Challenge: Part 1 (3.3 miles | +22 ft. / -741 ft.)
After the aid station, we immediately throw you into the woods and then merge with the 10K runners for a short time before you go down onto Not Fairway Trail. The singletrack is “surprisingly technical” meaning you’ll need to be constantly quick-footed to avoid the pointed rocks that quite possibly are attached to the Earth’s core somehow. Not Fairway is a gradual downhill amid Pennsylvania hardwoods and ferns. Then you make a left turn onto Tree-odge, – get it? Say it aloud – then Code Blue Trail. On the northeastern side of Spruce Knob, these trails with its pine, lush moss, mushrooms and mountain laurel, is reminiscent of the great trails in the northern PA Wilds or Catskills. Not to give away any secrets but you might end up doing a bit of “wilderness parkour” before you are done.
Afterward, you will find yourself on a grassy double track. The fun is about to begin. It’s the first half of Devils Hairpin! Part one is a 650-foot descent in three-quarters of a mile! What makes this even more exciting is that the downhill is wide-enough for two, maybe even three runners wide! If you are brave enough and good at finding a line, this is the place you can pass.
At the bottom, there will be a water-only aid station however; we will also put out some gels as well since the second half of the Devils Hairpin is on deck.
Section 8 – The Final 10K Challenge: Part 2 (3.4 miles | +1335 ft. / -603 ft.)
Hyner has Humble Hill and the Megatransect had Raw Trail. Every great PA trail race has its own signature public flogging. We call ours “Throat Punch Hill”! It’s the second half of Devils Hairpin. (Imagine the shape of a hairpin with one zigzag-shaped side and a straight side.) It’s time to go up, my friends. Throat Punch Hill scrambles up Spit Hollow to almost the top of the mountain.
At the end of the climb, it’s a right turn onto an old logging route and about eight-tenths of a mile downhill through the Needle Patch. Bear with me… imagine you are a flea on the back of a dog. The dog hair would look like giant needles sticking in the ground. Well, the trail, with its tall thin saplings, would be like if you were a flea running on a dogs back or over top of a pin cushion. Okay… I am writing this three IPAs in.
Then it’s the final climb. Again to add variety, it is a long – almost 2 mile climb of 900 feet. The course is wide — designed to reward those with climbing ability and patient enough to wait to make their move until later in the race. There is plenty of room to overtake exhausted runners and expect the terrain to be a mix of red clay and lots of loose rock.
Here, on your left is a short uphill scramble before some switchbacks onto a flat and wide logging trail and then a very short singletrack before literally popping out of the woods and a short sprint to the finish.