Finally.

I was signed up to run this race last year, however wasn’t able to because – well, COVID. The truth though is I’ve been waiting to run this race for much, much longer. It wasn’t too long after I got into running about 9 years ago that I learned about ultras. I was intrigued about races out past the marathon distance and the first one I discovered by googling “PA ultras” was this one. I loved the thought of running a trail race with mile markers. At the time, 70 miles was an unfathomable distance so it went onto the bucket list if I was ever able to run that far. Just after it went onto the list, I became obsesses with the 100 mile distance and so that’s been my focus since then. As the years progressed, Laurel Highlands just never quite made the cut. Until 2020 this year.

And really shame on me for not making this race a priority in my calendar until now. It’s a race that checks all of the boxes I look for when deciding what I want to do. I am drawn to low key, old school races and this one has been around for 42 years. I like a little quirky and the RDs still require you in this day and age to print out an application and mail them a check for the 70 mile race. It’s a point-to-point course covering the entire Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and almost entirely single track trails.

This is from the trailrunproject.com. I’m willing to bet it’s not 92% runnable, but will see Saturday.

Demographics

The numbers in the below charts are pulled from Ultrasignup data, which is US and trail race centric. So not completely accurate though fairly representative of the overall experience level of the runners this year.

Fairly typical dispersion for longer ultras. We need to keep encouraging the ladies to give these a try.
Those 2 runners at the bottom are both over 200 races. That’s a sick number regardless of distance.
40%+ of the runners have entered our community within the past 3 years.
Over half the starting field will have 10 or fewer ultra finishes with the median runner having 9.
There will be runners starting with 7, 8, 11, and if you can believe it 13 finishes Saturday

When I started doing ultras, I looked into race demographics as a way to see who else was crazy enough to run/walk/crawl these distances. They were actually reassuring to me. Whenever I was on a starting line looking around at the other runners, I just assumed they all had this massive experience advantage over me and I was the only novice there. I felt like I was an imposter and not even qualified to be starting the race. In reality, most ultra runners only have 5-10 finishes under their belts. This should be encouraging to those starting out in their ultra careers. Yes, you really do belong as you’re just like most of the starting field. It should also be a cautionary sign as ultra careers don’t appear to be long for most people. So enjoy the suffering while you can.

Race Strategy

My plan of attack will be to start off easy, survive the heat of the day, and then run the last 20 miles. The first part is always easier said than done as I think I’m oh-fer starting easy in my ultra career to date. This race makes it more challenging since it packs a decent amount of the elevation gain into the first 8 miles. At least it’ll still be relatively cool out. I’m trying to go into this race with minimal to no time expectations, which would be a first for me. Looking at prior results and where I usually finish, my guess is 17-18 hours is probably where I’ll end up. And if it takes me longer than that? Well, it just means I got my money’s worth.

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