This was an event that I almost didn’t attend! But I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Wilmington with my running crew. I think it’s been about 2 years since we’ve all been together on a runcation.
The Southern Tour Ultra holds 3 races in one day: an individual 50k, individual 50 miler, and a team 50 mile relay. This year, instead of 5 mile loops for the relay, they made it 5.5 miles. We were to each complete 2 loops.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The only other trail races I’ve done are the Sports Backers Trails and Ale’s 5k, which was super fun and held on trails I run on a regular basis, and the Richmond Ragnar trail event at Pocahontas State Park, which was a miserable, hot and humid, one and done event for me! Thankfully, unlike Ragnar, all of the running in this trail event is in the day, which means no run-ins with bats swooping in to eat moths who are attracted to the light from your headlamp.
All of my friends with me had run the Southern Tour Ultra at least once before, and they gave it rave reviews. No overnight camping. More like tailgaiting, as one of my crew described it. In “camp,” there were lots of pop-up tents for changing between legs of the relay, canopies to protect from the elements, bonfires, good music, and kegs of local craft beer and kombucha. The atmosphere was laid back and relaxed. Plenty of excitement for “serious” runners, but also lots of fun to be had by friends just looking to spend time together doing something we love.
We all ran a leg of the relay alone. About 30 minutes before I left to run, a young man with CP started his loop along with 2 helpers, as he could not walk the rough terrain on his own. There was a log crossing almost one mile in, and when I got there, he and his helpers were sitting on the log, inching their way across the giant log bridge that spanned across a waist deep creek. Plenty of runners happily jumped into the water to cross instead of waiting. Not wanting to get that wet so soon into my run, I waited for them to finish crossing. As a team, we were running for fun, not to smash records! Pausing was not a big deal. Besides, I needed time to strip my long sleeve layer and drink some water. And right after that, he was done crossing.
The next challenge was running across some mud flats near the water. Beautiful views, but lots of mud! There was no way to avoid getting your feet wet. And this was intentional! As the race directors emphasized, is it actually a trail race if you don’t get wet?
The rest of the course was fire road mixed with single track and a few fields. There were places which were marked extremely well, and others which were not! This confused one of our teammates, as she took a wrong turn, and she ended up running a couple of miles extra on her loop!
After I’d finished my loop and had been done for a while, the young man with CP approached his finish! He received a hero’s welcome as he made his way to the exchange tent. About halfway through the finish chute, a runner came in hot, shouting “RUNNER RIGHT!” We aren’t entirely sure he fully understood what was going on, because he broke the grip between the young man and his helper to get through the narrow chute, causing the young man to fall. Everyone watching gasped. It was awful!
My second loop was run by most of the team together. It was much more fun the second time with company! And we ran part of that loop with one of the runners helping the young man with CP. She was very gracious about the situation earlier with the disruptive runner who caused that young man to fall. She was sure the faster runner didn’t really get what was happening; he was simply focused on getting his best time. That is so NOT the reaction I would have had, and she’s a much better person than me! We finished that second loop as the sun set.
And with that, the first race of 2020 is done. The rest of the weekend was full of time on the beach, good food, and great conversation. If you can make a long weekend out of this race, it’s definitely a fun time!