By Warren Veazey and Jim Lynch
Earlier in the year, as the coronavirus began to be a serious health issue in the country and Virginia, the Friends of the DRHT were concerned that our popular August trail races would have to be cancelled. Fortunately, Virginia was able to keep things under control and the governor announced entry in a less restrictive phase (Phase 3) before the race. That allowed us to formulate protocols that allowed us to hold the race on Saturday, August 1, while keeping everybody participating as safe as possible.
We had 117 starters for the two races, a 50K and half marathon. In spite of health concerns, that's about the same turnout as we've had in recent years. Our race director had protocols in place to meet current health guidelines. It took fourteen paragraphs on the race sign-up page to go over the new rules. Runners were obviously comfortable with the precautions taken by Race Timing Unlimited and the community volunteers.
Some 75 percent of the entrants come from Virginia, with 25 percent coming from other states, primarily Maryland across the river. Runners uniformly enjoy our relatively flat and speedy race course. The DRHT trademark is our lush tree cover, so the trail is essentially a tunnel of trees — very nice on hot days! Congratulations to the winners this year: in the 50K, Natalie Patterson of Fredericksburg and Stafano Ruzza of Lutherville, Maryland; for the half marathon, Jean Kleitz from Gainesville and Matthew Leonard of Johnson City, Tennessee.
Prior to the Saturday morning start, a pair of huge thunderstorms tore through the area on Thursday night and knocked down about eight trees across the trail. We had teams of volunteers out most of the day on Friday to clear the trees. Then another tree fell Friday night and had to be cleared!
Race day begins at 5 a.m. when volunteers arrive to start setting up tables and canopies and helping arriving runners get parked and signed in. Masks were mandated for some volunteer jobs and encouraged for others. Trucks started out for the road crossings and aid stations with supplies. Runners start arriving soon after to get ready for the 6:30 a.m. start for the 50K. Runners were channeled through lanes to check in and pick up race packets, with much effort to encourage social distancing. Once the ultra runners are off, the half-marathon entrants start arriving for their 8 a.m. start. Once all the runners were out on the course, we rearranged the pylons and guide tapes to provide lanes for refreshments. We had to restrict the usual burgers with fixings, sandwiches, and fruit to achieve a hands-free environment, so we offered pre-packaged foods only: boxed wings, varieties of cookies, crackers and chips, and fruit cups. Pre-packaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches turned out to be very popular; they were the only food item we ran out of!
Trail maintainers are out there all summer. July and August are big months for growth along the trail. Mowing and bush-hogging keeps the trail clear while encroaching limbs need to be lopped. Volunteers are doing maintenance year-round, but before races we put forward extra effort so the trail is as good as it can be for the runners. As usual we depend on our trail neighbors and recreational users to tell us about things that need attention.
So as another great day of trail racing comes to an end, we turn our attention to the next race: a winter half marathon in February. Stay tuned. But between now and then we'll be out there taking walks and jogs along with other trail users, and keeping the trail trim. If you want to pitch in with trail maintenance, drop us a line.
Jim Lynch serves as president and Warren Veazey as vice president of the Friends of the DRHT
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