Trail racers from nine states, Washington, D.C., and the United Kingdom will be in Pocahontas County on Saturday, Aug. 10 for a 5-K race and half-marathon featured in the fourth annual Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge.
The races will use some of the 40 miles of historic trails in the park and adjacent Calvin Price State Forest, many of them built by the CCC in the 1930s. Both races start and finish at the park’s Beaver Creek Campground.
These events offer two different types of challenge for runners. With a couple of mountains between start and finish, the half-marathon climbs a total 2,650 feet over the 13.1-mile course and descends the same total – just over half a mile, vertically. In comparison, the elevation change in the 5-K course is only 450 feet, with only one moderate uphill stretch of 3/4 mile in the first half of the 3.1-mile race. The rest is a gentle descent and then a winding path through the rhododendrons along Beaver Creek. It’s a friendlier challenge to people who have run 5-K on pavement, but have never tried trail running.
Along with the challenges, Watoga offers a festive atmosphere, mountain hospitality, and cool, shady, well-marked trails to run on, many with moss underfoot.
Watoga State Park is located 7 miles south of Marlinton in Pocahontas County. Maps of the park and the Mountain Trail Challenge race courses can be found at www.watogafoundation.org along with directions to the park and links for race registration and volunteering.