Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2008 DuPont Forest Trail Marathon

The DuPont Trail Marathon takes place on the second Saturday of October in DuPont State Forest, roughly located between Hendersonville and Brevard. I do not know why it is not a state park, but the lack of that designation apparently makes it difficult to locate with mapping software. If you are driving, I would recommend starting with the directions from the Dupont State Forest website ( and then watching for signs as you get close because those directions do not take you all the way to the Guion Farm start/finish area. By the time you are on DuPont Road, though, pretty much every car you see is headed for the marathon. For what it's worth, I used a GPS on the return trip and it did not bring me back the way we came. For anyone coming from or through Asheville, down 126, I would trust what the website says. It seemed quicker than what my GPS chose (to route us through downtown Hendersonville.)

The 2008 race started at 9:00 a.m. which seemed later than normal, though I had not run here since 2005. This year, it was moderately cool so the later start didn't necessarily mean warmer temperatures as it would have in other years. The "cool" temperatures were made possible by cloud cover that remained for most of the morning and a near-constant breeze. Oh, and the course is run nearly entirely in the shade. There is a total elevation gain of one mile.

This course is known for two things: waterfalls and the two-mile hill. I have heard that you pass several waterfalls during the race but in the three times I have run it, I can only recall one--Bridal Veil Falls. Regardless, it is a very scenic course run on several trails within the forest. In the first half of the race, there are a number of times where you will double-back and run toward your fellow runners. If you are there with friends, you will have several chances to say "good job," give them a high-five, or whatever you do when you pass someone.

Now, about the route. The Hendersonville Times prints a map and a general description of what to expect at different points in the race. This is nice, but if you do not get this newspaper, you'll get your copy on race day. Get there early enough to look over it because what I say here, is what I remember, not necessarily what is actually out there.

DuPont offers a fast start with two miles of nearly all downhill. The road is dirt/gravel and probably two-car wide. It descends and winds down to the first aid station (which you will pass several more times.) About 1/2 mile later, you run through a covered bridge and on the other side, a photographer is waiting to capture you looking your early-race best. You continue along this raod a little further then double back. The newspaper says you go back under the covered bridge, but I honestly don't remember doing so. I assume that they were not oxygen-deprived, however, and are more likely than I to be correct.

The course continues on a wide dirt/gravel road until you make a quick detour down to pay homage to Bridal Veil Falls at about mile 6 1/2. According to the newpaper, this waterfall was part of the scenery used in "Last of the Mohicans." This short out-and-back is the first area to have moderately tricky footing. I personally saw one BMRCer fall there in a previous year. I believe her pre-fall words were something like, "look at the water---."

Once you've cleared this out-and-back, there's a 1/2 to 3/4 mile climb up to the highest point on the course, and a rarity in marathons, a stretch you run on an airstrip. Originally, the strip was used to fly DuPont executives to the plant. Now, I assume, the strip is used in case of forest fires. It's a unique experience to run on an airstrip and at one end, it looks almost as if you are going to run off the face of the earth. At least until you get to the edge of the runway. This is another area where you will be running toward fellow runners as you enter in the middle of the airstrip, run to one end, all the way back to the other end, then return to the middle and head back onto the trail. You are now at about mile 8 1/2 or 9.

Next is a descent to Fawn Lake, a scenic, small lake surrounded by mountains that must look stunning when the leaves are in full color. Once you've circled the lake, you climb back up (and toward your fellow runners) to where you entered the airstrip. Now you'll descend to Lake Julia. You do not get quite the view of this lake as you did of Fawn Lake, but it is larger and supposedly just as spectacular.

After Lake Julia, you are back on Bridal Veil road, off of which you had the earlier out-and-back. You'll come back out near the covered bridge and soon make your way back up two-mile hill. About 1/10th of a mile from the finish line, at about mile 16, you are routed left into the woods for the most technical portion of the course. It's a mostly single-track section that is not terribly difficult or dangerous, but you could pay for a major mistake here with a twisted ankle, or very nice "trail rash." There are a few muddy spots and one small creek that you could probably jump if you were on mile one. My lazy jump landed about six inches short of the other side. There are a few stretches of rocky uphill and some rocky downhills until you cross over "two-mile hill" and continue your loop on the opposite side. Here, it is not quite so technical, probably falling somewhere between the wide easy road you began on and the narrow, rocky trail you just left. You are around mile 19 or so when you enter and when you emerge in the parking area near the start/finish, you are at mile 22. Obviously, a marathon is not 22 miles, so it's back down "two-mile hill" for you.

You turn around within about 100 feet of the bottom of two-mile hill, at about mile 24. The aid station here offers you water and gatorade for the trip back up. I am not sure if they had gels or not. I really didn't notice. You ascend "two-mile hill" for the second and final time, running into traffic. Here, you can see how close people are to catching you and possibly judge if they (and you) have enough for them to do so. At no point is this hill extremely steep, but it is just so long, and it now covers miles 24 through 26, so it really begins to take its toll. At the top, you have the option of a final stop at the mile 16 aid station, but as you are only 1/10th of a mile from the finish, you're probably better off just continuing on.

Upon crossing the finish line, you are greeted by name by race director Greg Walker, presented with a ceramic (pottery) medallion shaped like a maple leaf and a solar blanket that makes you bear a strong resemblence to a baked potato. Head over to the finisher's area and they have Subway sandwiches and cookies, drinks, and a massage table for the truly sore.

I should also mention that there is a relay and Children's Power Run, both of which begin after the marathon.

In all, it's a marathon worth recommending. I would not have returned for the third time had I not enjoyed it each year. The aid station volunteers are enthusiastic and even costumed in a few cases. I did not mention the location of every aid station, but they seemed to be well spaced. In fact, there were probably more than I am accustomed to on a trail race. The packets, which may vary from year to year, included some Balga socks, crackers, a smiley-face car air freshner, hand soap, and a few other assorted items. The shirt was a short-sleeve bright green technical shirt with the sponsors listed in the form of the YMCA "Y."

I found a two brief videos by Greg Walker on the race: and

No comments:

Post a Comment