Big Elk Marathon
Starting from the fairgrounds, the course will travel north on road for approximately ¾ mile before turning right onto the Orange trail. The orange trail consists of mostly double-track with some single track sections and enough rock gardens to make you thankful you chose to wear your trail specific racing shoes. This segment will feature some light rolling hills for about 1.5 miles before turning onto some unnamed single track. After a quick downhill and easy stream crossing, the course will zigzag up and down a series of hairpin turns before letting out on a short, steep rocky downhill that will serve as a great separation point for the mountain goats from the trail sprouts. At the bottom of this trail, runners will follow some grassy double-track along the Big Elk Creek before crossing over on a bridge and reaching the first aid station (~mile 3.5).
From the first aid station, runners will proceed briefly on some double-track/service road before jumping on uphill single track bringing you to the Route 273 crossing. After going over the bridge, you will have a brief flat gravel road to stretch your legs out before turning right on some more single track. This single track is mostly non-technical but will bring you through a series of sharp turns before letting you out back onto the gravel road surrounding the creek. Water and aid will be waiting for you at the end of this trail (~mile 5).
After another brief (.25 mile) on gravel road along the water, you will again cross the Big Elk creek onto the Yellow trail. You will follow this single-track rolling trail on the west side of the creek for slightly over a mile before crossing over the gravel road (possible self serve water-refill spot) and through a field to get to the 7 Bridges trail. This single-track section will feature some significantly technical sections from roots, with a few steep changes in grade as you wind through the woods in this area of the park. This trail will let you back out onto the gravel road which you will follow up to Gallaher Rd, and crossing into the parking lot for the red trail where full aid will be waiting (~mile 8.5).
The race will then travel through the inner red-loop featuring some rooted sections and small stream crossings for 1.5 miles, before traveling uphill towards Big Elk Chapel Road. Water will be waiting at the road crossing (~mile 10.5). You will then continue through a field before entering trails surrounding the training grounds. This trail will wind around and gently roll, as well as featuring some small stream crossings. The course will then continue along the edge of the field travelling east with a quick aid station available (~mile 11.5).
In the final segment of the course you will travel briefly uphill on some moderately rooted single-track trail, continue across a training field before joining the last 1.5 mile segment of rooted single track bringing you back to the fairgrounds.
Overall, the course features rolling hills with no significant “climbs”. Depending on the rainfall leading up to race day, keeping your feet dry may be an option, although it may require a bit of extra effort! The course has some technical elements with rocks along the first several miles of the course, leaving way for significant roots waiting to trip you up over the last half of each loop.