Saturday marks seven weeks to go until the Bel Monte Endurance Races in the Skylark Mountains of Virginia. There are three events for runners to choose from — a 50-miler, 50K and a 25K.
I will be doing the 50K on March 14, hoping to improve my time from three years ago when I finished 10th overall out of just shy of 100 runners. Since then, the race has grown and there have been a few changes. After signing up for the 2020 races, I wrote about why I decided to run this great race again.
With seven weeks to go, here are seven important things to know about the race:
Time to register. If you want to join me at the royal Oaks Resort in Lyndhurst, Va., be advised that the race is nearing the maximum capacity of 350 total entrants. Once filled, there will be a waiting list. Here’s how to register.
On your marks. The race begins with two miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After leaving the road, runners will be exploring the George Washington National Forest trail system. The course is 60 percent single-track, about 30 percent jeep and gravel road, with the remainder on the Blue Ridge Parkway pavement.
The volunteers are tremendous. I’ve participated in more than 60 races, roughly half of those were a marathon distance or longer. Even though it has been several years since I stopped at a Bel Monte aid station, I clearly recall how well the aid stations were organized, and how friendly and helpful the volunteers were.
Plan for any type of weather. It was bitter cold when I raced this a few years ago (thank goodness for the campfire at the start/finish line). In March, northern Virginia weather can be very unpredictable. Be ready for anything from a 60-degree sunny day to a snowstorm to an ice storm in chilly temperatures.
Note the course changes. The out-and-back course changes from year to year. This year, an extended cutoff has been added for the 50-milers. This also means the 50-mile race and 50K will start a half hour apart.
Where’s Marty? Other than the course changes, the only other difference that returning runners will note is the location of Camp Marty, which has been moved to the Slacks Overlook. This is due to the accessibility on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is often closed this time of year. (Learn more about the aid stations, cutoffs and drop bags.)
It’s a qualifier for UTMB. After conquering Bel Monte, time to gather some more points and see which of the UTMB races appeals to you.