My recent post got me thinking about all the ultras I’ve done over the years. Turns out I’ve done 36 different races of various flavors. Every year I rank my hundred milers and while I don’t think I can rank every single race I’ve done from first to worst, I think I can give you my top four. So without further ado, here are the races that go on my personal Mt. Rushmore.

Laurel Highlands

When I first heard of ultramarathons, I googled “PA ultra” and LH70 was one of the first results. A quick look at the race and it seemed incredible (mile markers every mile just like my road races? Sign me up!) It was also incredibly beyond my abilities since I hadn’t even finished a marathon yet, but I decided to put it on my bucket list. However once I finally got to the point where 70 miles seemed feasible, I had shifted my obsession focus to hundreds. Years later I finally signed up for it and . . . COVID. The next year I got out on the Laurel Highland Hiking Trail and kicked myself for not getting around to the race sooner. Mile for mile, this is probably the prettiest course I’ve run. Just absolutely gorgeous. Love it!

You’ll pass 70 of these markers on your way to the finish.

Eastern States

ES100 checks all the boxes when you think about great races. The course itself has amazing scenery. It’s very challenging between the heat, the hills, and the humidity. It’s in Rocksylvania so you know it’s technical. The aid stations are top notch. What sets it apart though is every year the race organization makes tweaks and changes to improve the overall race experience. This year they’re adding a solo division. Last year brought us a river crossing and runner tracking around the course. The year before was better signage in/out of aid stations. I view it as a world class event and am excited to see what it evolves into going forward. Love it!

Old Dominion

A great way to make my Mt Rushmore is to be iconic. And you will not find a more distinctive or iconic race out there than OD100. Let’s start with the fact that this is the oldest 100 mile race in the US (WSER was closer to 90 miles until the mid-80s). It’s still put on by the Botts family who founded the race in 1979. It has the tightest 100 mile cutoff (28 hours) and only awards buckles to sub-24 hour finishers. The course has quite few miles on scenic country roads. “Safety Runners” (aka pacers) are only allowed on an 11 mile section of trails. Then there’s the Redbook which has the history of the race included all past finishers (I’m on page 40). This race is definition 2b in the dictionary for Old School. Love it!

Lots of fast, pretty country lanes to run along at OD100.

DUC 100K

Another great way to make my Top 4 is be different from any other race. Including prior versions of itself. Delmarva Ultra Challenge is an overnight 50K followed by the Algonquin 50K the next day. Every year the overnight course changes and is kept secret until 2 hours before the start. That’s when the RD emails out directions to the race start. There’s still not much information provided beyond basic logistics like how far between aid stations. Oh and this race is held in early February in the Mid-Atlantic so you know the weather’s just going to suck. Love it!

Final Thoughts

I literally cannot recommend each of these races enough (love them!). If you’re looking for pretty courses (or pretty tough courses), you definitely need to sign up for these. I’m always impressed with the quality of the ultras that I do especially considering the size of most races. While no race is perfect, I’ve yet to do a bad race. These four though are orders of magnitude above your average ultra. You might be disappointed with your performance, but you’ll definitely not be disappointed in the races themselves.

Now go sign up for one!

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