The Arkansas Traveller 100 Mile Trail Run is arguably the highpoint of many an Arkansas runner’s year and is the culmination of months if not years of training, nutrition and gear experiments plus a lot of hard work. A good trail run doesn’t have to be 100 miles long to be legendary. Here’s a list of classic trail runs Arkansas Outside has participated in and some bucket list of events we haven’t run in, yet.
- Race the Base trail run at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Although there are some technical sections, this run is a great introduction to trail running. It may only be 4 miles, but it’s 4 miles of good times, good fun, and good people. This race is in November. They have music, Macs Race Timing skills, lots cheering and hugs and beer will be available for donations to Partners for Pinnacle to keep our favorite urban park in tip top condition.
- Ouachita Trail 50K/50M. The OT50 is a perennial favorite among local trail runners as well as a destination run for folks from all over. Just to write the word legendary again, legendary race director Chrissy Ferguson and her team never disappoint. The aid stations are incredible, the atmosphere is full of adrenaline, joy and giant unicorns for those who bonk and start hallucinating during the 50-miler. The Pirates at the Northshore aid station are not a hallucination. Those, are real.
- Hoof it for Heifer 20K at Petit Jean State Park is another fan favorite and an incredibly good way to warm down the taper for the OT50 it usually falls on the previous Saturday. The scenery on this medium distance run just can’t be beat with waterfalls, slots, turtle rocks and creek crossings. Accessible to many levels of ability, it should be on every trail runner’s list.
- Calling the Mt. Nebo Fun Run a “fun” run is kind of like calling a tall man “shorty”. This 14-ish mile run is incredibly fun with a nice flat run on top of the mountain from sunrise to sunset point then down to the relatively slow rolling hills of the Bench Trail for two laps, and then your quads scream out “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” as the steep downhill all the way down the switchback road tears at your knees and quads only to let your hammies enjoy a little of the fun on the way back up the hill. In all seriousness, this fun run is one of the best times in sneakers to be had. Stick around after the race and play in the pool at the park, many turn it into a weekend camping trip and best of all, there is no registration fee for this race. Donate if you want, but run for the fun of it, not the t-shirt.
- War Eagle Tail Twister 10/25/50K put on by Rush Running in Northwest Arkansas utilizes one of the AO team’s favorite trail systems at Hobbs State Park and Conservation Area. The multi-use trails are well designed, drain so well that even storms the day before and continuing into the morning have little effect.
- The Sylamore 25/50K draws participants from all over Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri. This February race tends to be cold, often icy, sometimes starts with driving sleet, but it’s always a good time. It fills up fast so don’t be shy, sign up quick. Wear your best wicking socks and water-draining shoes. No matter what, you’re going to get wet. If you’re lucky you’ll also get to enjoy the beauty of icicles hanging from the bluffs and the frost covered forest. Bring your friends. The best way to enjoy this race is to rent one of the many large cabins in the area or stay at one of the great B & B’s like the Ozark Country Inn, stick around for a meal at the finish line restaurant, The Angler, and enjoy the laid back flavor of Mt View. The coveted hoodie sweatshirts from this race are a fashion must at every cold race during the year, the perennial post race fashion of choice for runners. The finisher’s pint glasses are a nice touch too.
- Full Moon 25/50K doesn’t always get to take advantage of the full moon since no one, not even the extraordinary Susy Chandler can force the full moon to happen on a Saturday, but regardless of the phase of the moon, this race lets runners “do it all night long”. The heat and humidity of any Arkansas summer can turn any run into a sweatfest. There should be some kind of award for everyone who does the Sylamore in the ice and the Full Moon in the heat. Temperature notwithstanding, the night run on gravel forest roads near Lake Sylvia gives runners a chance to test skills beyond single track or road. Navigating by headlamp adds something extra to the run, that something extra sometimes being the hypnotic dance of the headlamps in the dark in front of you.
- While there are many more, this list ends with the Cossatot River Half Marathon. This run follows the Cossatot River Corridor Trail which is exactly what the name implies, a breathtakingly beautiful trail winding in and out of the cedar and pine forest, occasionally wandering out to a ridge overlooking the river. Countless wooden bridges and a couple of low water bridges carry hikers and runners over the water which is typically low at race time in October, but you can still hear the river tumbling down the skullcrusher boulders that white water kayakers enjoy so much when the water is flowing high and fast. A very technical run, swift feet must be prepared for rocks and quick elevation changes on this limited entry race.
There are so many great organized trail runs here in the Natural State, this list is certainly not comprehensive. There are a few more that are on our list that we haven’t made it to yet; lucky for us we have friends who are willing to share their stories with us and make us want to get out there with them.
The LOViT Marathon, the Athens-Big Fork Marathon, the White Rock Classic 25/50K, the Mount Magazine Fun Run, Mt. Kessler, and David’s Trail Endurance 25/40K are all on the bucket list.
For more information on many of these runs, check out the Arkansas Ultra Running Association page.