The last weekend in January means that its time for the "Winter" Buckeye Trail 50km
fun-run. This year marks the 10th anniversary of this winter classic.
A decade ago and during the infancy of the Summer "BT50km,"
a few local runners decided to tackle a wintery ultra-distance romp through the Cuyahoga Valley.
This tradition continued through the years, carried on by the core of local ultrarunners, on a course similar to the Summer 50km.
Led by local ultra veterans Tanya Cady and Roy Heger, last year's Winter
BT50km has taken on a new course and new cause.
The course changed from the traditional out-and-back route
of the summer classic to now a double-loop route starting and ending at the Boston Store.
Loop A measures 5 miles and heads up to Brandywine Falls
and back. Loop B is more familar to BT aficioanados. It measures 8 miles and travels the familar trail from Boston Store to the the Pine Lane Parking lot and back. While the run is of a "fun-run" nature, the x-factor remains the potential for severe winter weather. With the new loop course design, runners can opt for the distance of their choosing--half marathon, marathon, or 50 km. The loops repeat as required until the desired distance is met.
Personally, I've only been around NE Ohio going on 4 years now and year 2004 was the scene of my first winter experience on the BT. That day brought frigid 10F temperatures along with 2-3 feet of fresh powder snow. Yet to try an ultra, I set out to go 25km. What a humbling experience. Within an hour, my legs burned from snow-slogging and my water bottle froze into a solid unhelpful hunk of ice. Stuck in the woods, tired and cold with nothing to drink, I desparately stuffed that ice block in my jacket in a feable attempt to thaw the bottle in order to get a sip. On that day 50km runners took 2-4 hours longer than on a normally clear trail. I failed that day to reach my 25km goal.
Times have changed. Today, the Winter 50km has become a full-fledged "event"
that raises funds for several causes. Also known as the "Run for Regis Shivers," a portion of the proceeds go towards a college scholarship in his name. Any remaining proceeds goes towards the Cincinnati Veteran's Administration "Fisher House,"
an organization that provides temporary lodging to family members of ill-stricken veterans. Regis' battle with throat cancer is ongoing, yet his inspiration can be found throughout the day. He's constantly popping up on the course to cheer (if not run a few miles.)
The combination of the new course, the race direction of Tanya Cady, and the "Run for Regis," has transformed the once small winter 50km into a wildly popular event. For the second consecutive year, the entries are sold out. Over 125 runners are expected at the 7:00am start.The buzz: There's a rumor there's a few hardy and adventurous types striving for for a double-BT50k this weekend, a-la Hellgate 100km. The idea is to run the first 50k through the night and arrive at the start with enough time to warm up, refuel, and join in with the main race. Such a feat requires braving the elements for upwards of 15 or more hours. Brrrrr. I wish them well.