If you’re the type of person that only looks to successful people for advice, then you can stop reading here. On the other hand, if you believe that more can be learned from failure than success, then here’s what I’ve learned from my attempt to run the entire Mason-Dixon Trail. Some of this is from my attempt itself and the rest is from the 2 years I spend section running the entire trail in prep for the attempt.
- Buy the trail maps. The trail is well blazed, but the maps make things infinitely less stressful as you move along. I found them most helpful on the road sections where it was difficult at times for my colorblind eyesight to spot the light blue blazes on posts and poles.
- Run the entire trail in preparation. This will definitely cut down on the risk of getting lost. Two hundred miles is long enough, you don’t need to add bonus miles.
- If #2 isn’t possible, definitely cover these sections:
- 10 miles east of Shank’s Mare – far and away the hardest section. Don’t let this surprise you on your FKT Attempt.
- Kline’s Run Park – very hard to find your way through this very open park. Especially at night.
- White Clay Creek State Park – there’s no blazes inside the park, just signs at intersections. It takes a little getting used to and better to have an idea what this is like ahead of time.
- West to east should be the preferred direction. There is very little aid out west and it’s best to hit this when you’re “fresh”. This also gets the hardest sections out of the way in the first half.
- Supported vs. Self Supported vs. Unsupported. This will mostly come down to personal preference. All I’ll say is that I think there’s a dramatic increase in difficulty from Supported to Self-Supported. Unsupported would then be a little more difficult, but not nearly as big a jump.
- Trekking poles are advised. You don’t need them for most sections, but when you need them you really need them.
- Don’t skimp on your headlamp. The brighter your light, the better you’ll move and be able to find the trail at night.
- Be choosy on when you attempt this. I thought late May would be a good balance between daylight hours and cooler temperatures. Then got slammed with multiple days in the mid-80s. Sigh. Know what temperatures you struggle with and try to avoid those.
- Don’t underestimate the difficulty of this trail. All the road and flat sections will lead you to think the M-DT is easier than it really is. Two hundred miles is hard no matter the terrain.
- Have fun. The trail offers a wonderful variety and some gorgeous views. Enjoy!
Feel free to hit me up with any additional questions. Happy trails.