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2020 vision: Heading back to the Bel Monte 50K

In March, I am returning to the Bel Monte Endurance Races 50K, held in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It will be my third event put on by Bad to the Bone, following the same race in 2017 and the Ultra Race of Champions 100K earlier this year.

The majority of the race — 95 percent — takes place on single-track trails and mountain roads in the George Washington National Forest. The course begins and ends with a short section on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

In addition to the 50K, there also is a 50-miler and a 25K, all of which are UTMB qualifiers. According to the website, there is 6,500 feet of gain for the 50-miler, 3,100 feet for the 50K and 2,100 for the 25K. (At the race two years ago, my watch showed 4,849 feet of elevation change. So be ready for some climbing, regardless of the actual total.)

The races take place on Saturday, March 14, 2020. The out-and-back courses all begin at the Royal Oaks Resort in Lyndhurst, Va., about a two-hour drive from Richmond.

Here are five reasons why I picked Bel Monte for my first ultra in 2020:

  1. Even though it’s a “short” ultra, the unrelenting climbs and changing elevation will help prepare me for longer races later in the season.

  2. The staff, led by co-race director Francesca Conte, and volunteers are amazing. I have great memories of how helpful everyone was before, during and after my first race there in 2017. It’s why I wanted my first 100K to be associated with this company and why I am returning to the 50K race in 2020.

  3. The course is well-marked, offers scenic trails and the aid station food was terrific.

  4. As I have come to appreciate in my previous Bad to the Bone races, there is helpful communication on the website, Facebook page and via emails.

  5. The start-finish area at Royal Oaks Resort features music and a bonfire all day long. (And that bonfire was quite popular two years ago. After all this is March in Virginia — great running weather but chilly when just standing around.)

“The Bel Monte Endurance Races is the most fun ultra you'll ever do,” says Conte, who created the ultra with her husband, James Gill. “Created by ultra runners for ultra runners, Bel Monte has all the qualities most coveted in an ultra: a stunning course on single-track trails, a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, a start/finish location with bonfires, cabins and more. It’s the perfect spring ultra to do with friends!”

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