Races for The Trail Curious

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Herbert Krabel

By: Herbert Krabel

Herbert Krabel grew up in Southern Germany but now resides on the East Coast of the USA with his wife Amy and his 11-year-old twin sons. He raced mountain bikes professionally in the early 90s and then explored triathlon for a few years. More recently he found a passion for trail running, unique ultra-distance races and locations, and SwimRun. He also loves art, architecture, and European chocolates.

Running has long been a popular participation sport all over the world, and while trail running is still a relatively small piece of the puzzle its buzz is growing! Are you trail curious but don’t know where to start? We compiled a list just for you of races that give you a taste of the trail. While some might want to put things in a “beginner-friendly” box we wanted to share races that are inviting and friendly, making them the perfect welcoming committee to our sport. 

Stump Jump 50km and 10-mile

March 9 – Chattanooga, TN

The Stump Jump races are part of the Bad Beard Events series and offer both a 50km and 10-mile option only a couple months after their popular Rabid Raccoon 25km. The race venue is on Signal Mountain just above Chattanooga and has plenty of scenic singletrack. The 10-mile race has a 4-hour cutoff (~2.5 miles per hour), and the 50km has a 10 hour cutoff. Local athletes have long been singing high praise for the event, while other athletes have traveled quite far to run it.

“Stump Jump is a race all about community. It has a 20+ year history of bringing runners from all over the country together for a fantastic day in the woods. The 50km and 10 miler celebrate the race together at the finish over food, fellowship, and accomplishment. Stump Jump is a perfect race for beginners and seasoned runners; a volunteer or friend is at every corner, ready to help you finish,” said Bad Beard Events owner Ginny Kelly.

Running through the Stump Jump race weekend. PC: Laurie Stevens
Running through the Stump Jump race weekend. PC: Laurie Stevens

Walla Walla 6-Hour 

April 13th – Walla Walla, WA

This Trail Sisters trail race is only for women and it is already sold out for 2024! The 5-mile course follows the Whitetail Trail around Bennington Lake and is mostly double track with some single track sections. 

“Timed looped events are great for meeting runners where they are at in their running journey because there are no DNFs. I have been witness to hundreds of runners who PR a distance or complete their first ultra at Walla Trails and Community events. Many women have shared they feel more comfortable at an all-women’s race. I even had a husband reach out and thanked me for creating the Walla Walla 6 Hour because his wife didn’t have the confidence to stand at the start line of ultramarathons surrounded by men.  When that intimation was taken away, she completed her first 50k at the Walla Walla 6 Hour,” said race director Gretchen Walla. 

Lake Sonoma 50-mile and Trail Marathon

April 12-13th – Lake Sonoma, CA 

A long time April staple, Lake Sonoma is the home to the classic 50-mile race and now a trail marathon and a women’s half marathon – a distance for everyone racing and supporting over the weekend. These races are both the perfect events for speedsters looking to test their fitness, and for the first timers who are looking for a challenging yet encouraging course. The race organization has gone above and beyond to create a festival-like atmosphere that is designed for celebration and for fostering community.

Cape Mountain Trail Runs 

June 1-2nd – Cape Mountain, Oregon

The Cape Mountain Trail Runs on the coast of Oregon include 10km, 25km and 50km distances and offering something for anybody looking for an adventure in a beautiful and under explored part of the country.  

“We love the Cape Mountain event for many reasons, especially because the loop courses are beautiful, peaceful, and have a variety of distance options for runners of all levels to choose from. The event has a cozy, intimate campfire atmosphere too, as it’s hosted at an old horse camp on a forested coastal ridge about 15 minutes from town. Since the aid stations are all easily accessible for spectators, Cape Mountain allows friends and family to support and cheer on their runners and be part of the excitement as well,” said race director Jeremy Long.

Cape Mountain 25km by Daybreak Racing
Cape Mountain Trail Runs 25km by Daybreak Racing

The Black Mountain Monster 6/12/24 Hour Race

June 1st – Black Mountain, NC 

At the Black Mountain Monster you can run any distance you want and there are no DNFs. The beauty of a looped, timed course is that you always have company! It is a superb fun trail event in Black Mountain NC with incredibly cool awards for those chasing glory. Black Mountain is not far from Asheville and the whole region has amazing trails that you probably didn’t know about. 

The BMM24 is a lot of runners’ first trail race or first ultra-distance or both.  I think that’s due to the approachable nature of both the course and the atmosphere.  At 3.25 miles per lap consisting of generally rolling terrain that crosses through varying scenery, the course is dynamic enough to keep people entertained but not so difficult to frustrate beginner trail runners.  The encouraging vibe around the start/finish and camping area and the support from event staff is amazing.  Every person from elite to novice is welcome and will be respected at Black Mountain Monster,” said race director Mike Guyer.  

The Three Sisters Skyline 

September 21th – Sisters, OR

Central Oregon’s scenic trails show off and the Three Sisters Skyline offers both a 50km and a half marathon distance. Not far from Bend, Sisters is a jumping off place for all kinds of trail adventures as well as small town charm. The 50km race has plenty of climbing and scenic views but the Half Marathon is actually a net downhill race. 

Womp Romp

October 26th – Hingham, MA

Womp Romp is a beginner-friendly race with both a 50km and 10-mile offering in Hingham, Massachusetts. The 50km event is 3 loops of the 10-mile course plus an extra 1-mile section and thus it is quite easy for family and friends to cheer for their loved ones who are competing.

“The Womp Romp 10 Mile and 50K was created around the mindset of “We Get To Do This!”  We get to challenge ourselves and build friendships on the trails.  The loop is a nice mixture of single track, wide trails, and some pavement.  This is a perfect race for first-timers and seasoned trail runners.  Elevation gain per loop is 600 feet. We offer 3 aid stations with more food than you can imagine. You will not be disappointed running with the Womp Romp community,” said race director Matthew Hoadley. 

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50km

December 7th – Fountain Hills, AZ

Any Aravaipa race you show up to is promised to be a good time, and while many of their most popular races are longer ultras (Black Canyon 100km, Javelina 100 mile, Cocodona 250 mile) they also has a bunch of shorter distance offerings that will make you a trail convert. 

“I recommend are McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50km – as it’s a single loop, mostly single track and great weather. Same park as Javelina but more relaxed environment and cooler temps. I also recommend Crown King Scramble 50k. It’s a point-to-point net uphill so a lot of elevation gain but it allows for a strong hiker to get it done and the scenery and history is about as good as anywhere. Starts in the desert surrounded by cactus and ends in the pine forest of an old mining town at a 100+ year old saloon,” said race director Jamil Coury.

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 2023. PC: Jesse Ellis
McDowell Mountain Frenzy 2023. PC: Jesse Ellis

The Suffolk Backyard Ultra 

June 1st – Suffolk, UK

When we think about backyard ultras, runners like Harvey Lewis come to mind – but Backyard Ultras are for everyone! The Suffolk Backyard Ultra is a looped 4.167 mile course where racers run one loop every hour on the hour.  Three loops or days of loops, each runner can decide what their target it is. 

Race director Lindley Chambers added, “The backyard format is great for all abilities of runners, from beginners to elite runners. Everyone starts with the elites and runs the same laps, and the elite runners will chat to them and interact. You can do as much and as little as you can from 1 lap to 100 laps and still have the same support and experience. We have fostered an all-inclusive friendly atmosphere with a great team of marshals to support you and the runners create a very supportive group where if you have no crew other teams will help you and runners that have stopped will support you and help you go as far as you can.” 

Aletsch Halbmarathon

June 22-23rd – Brig, Switzerland

This race near the Jungfrau Aletsch-Bietschhorn UNESCO world heritage is loaded with climbing but rewards you with stunning views of the Aletsch glacier below. Choose your challenge, the race also offers a selection of shorter distances that are free. We love a good runcation – and this would be a great way to kick one off.

“We get starters from all over the world to travel to the Aletsch area in Switzerland when the international trail run is on the program in the UNESCO World Heritage Jungfrau Aletsch region. With almost 3,000 starters is considered one of the most scenic half marathons in Europe – offering a unique alpine experience with views of several 4,000 meter mountains and the biggest glacier in Europe. Great for professional runners, amateurs and those just looking simply for a good experience,” said Toni König the race director of the Aletsch Halbmarathon.   

Aletsch Half Marathon. PC: AHM Wilfried
Aletsch Half Marathon. PC: AHM Wilfried

Quebec Mega Trail

July 4-7th – Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec, Canada

Quebec Mega Trail offers an incredible number of races ranging from 1km to 100 miles near the very popular sports destination of Mont-Sainte-Anne. Sadly, the 1km is only for kids, but lucky for you there are also the 6km, 10km, 15km, 21km, 25km, 50km, 80km, 110km and 100-mile events to choose from. Surely there is a distance that scratches anyone’s itch, and for QMT to offer 10 different events within a race week is impressive.

Stranda Fjord Trail 

August 9-10th – Stranda, Norway 

You don’t have to live in Norway to experience running trails in this magical country. The Stranda Fjord Trail races offer a 12km, 25km, and a 48km race. Bonus points, you might also get to bump into Kilian Jornet or Jonathan Albon or another famous trail runner while you are there. The Stranda is our pick for most scenic race of the bunch!  

“What makes the Stranda Fjord Trail race weekend special is definitely the race courses. They are so diverse ranging from fast single track to really technical alpine running, with some gnarly downhill sections with some really epic fjord views. The atmosphere is nice too as the course goes past huts and houses where people are cheering, and the finish area in the village center of Stranda is pretty cool with spectators, good DJ vibes and a chill out area for the runners,” said Martin Kristoffersen of Strand Fjord Trail.  

Keep exploring


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