Hankering to Hurt
Readers weigh in on top trail marathons
Runners on the "Raw Trail" at the Megatransect Challenge; Photo by Peter Lopes
This week on the Trail Runner Facebook page (if you haven't already, please Like us. Thank you!), we asked our followers to share their favorite trail marathons. Within hours, hundreds of you chimed in to rave about the 26.2(ish)-mile trail races that pump your adrenaline, get your legs screaming and take your breath away.
Our readers’ top picks reinforce that trail runners love nothing more than a hardy challenge. Here are three bad boys we doubt you’ll be setting any PRs on:
Pikes Peak Marathon, August
Manitou Springs, CO
No race got as much love on our Facebook page as the venerable Pikes Peak Marathon, which takes the masochistic-spirited runners 8000 vertical feet up to the race’s midway turnaround at an elevation of 14,050 feet. Started in 1956 as a challenge between smokers and non-smokers, it is the third-oldest marathon in the country (after Boston and Yonkers). The race website promises that “Your legs, lungs, heart and mind will be worn to a ragged nothingness.”
Megatransect Challenge, September
Billed as a challenging, albeit safety-oriented, event for trail runners and hikers alike, this 26-plus-mile course takes participants over a plethora of unique geological formations, including scrambles across sandstone boulderfields and a total vertical gain of over 5000 feet. Crossing through the Bald Eagle Mountain area of Pennsylvania, the diverse course features old-growth hemlock, small waterfalls, scenic gorges, water crossings and plenty of technical terrain. Register early—this one sells out fast every year.
Stumpy’s Marathon, September
It’s not a trail race if nobody gets lost. With a motto like this, the Stumpy’s Marathon and its irreverent humor bring smiles every year. The course “seldom exceeds 28 miles” and promises its participants plenty of rolling hills, mud, insect bites and water stations that might be anywhere from five to 26.2 miles apart, depending on the year and race director’s mood. All finishers receive a much-coveted TrailDawgs Finisher’s Rock.
Other popular races included longtime favorites like Colorado’s Leadville Trail Marathon (June), run through the historic mining district in town and topping out at 13,185 feet at scenic Mosquito Pass—as well as a smorgasbord of relatively new, soon-to-become classics: the Moab Trail Marathon (November) course winds through steep canyons, old mining trails and Utah’s signature slickrock, while New York’s Sehgahunda Trail Marathon (May) takes runners across streams and gullies in the Genesee River Valley, dubbed “The Grand Canyon of the East.” In the UK’s verdant Snowdonia National Park, the Wales Marathon (July) rewards runners with free flapjacks at the finish line.