Escarpment Trail Run: Only For a Few
Added by Dave Schatz on September 7, 2013.
The Escarpment Trail Run (ETR) takes place every summer on a rugged and remote hiking trail in the Northern Catskill Mountains of New York State. The difficult 30 Kilometer (18.6 mile) course extends from Windham to North Lake in Haines Falls, New York. The trail has total elevation changes of close to 10,000 feet, mile for mile.
Kristen Tamburrino (2010 and 2011 winner)
Photo Credit: escarpment trail.com
The race is not for everyone, and race director Dick Vincent doesn’t try to hype it, or make it out to be something that it’s not, he said.
“Extremely steep down hills add challenge and unwelcome danger,” the application warns. “There will be no vehicle to fetch you if you should decide to quit.”
Now in its 37th year, 228 daring individuals (referred to as “contestants” in the application to enter) started the treacherous run on the morning of July 28th, at 9:01 A.M. The day was mixed with sun, fog, and a good bit of rain.
The winner this year was 29 year old, DENIS MIKHAYLOV, of Fort Lee, NJ, in 2:51:05. The first female to cross the finish line was: 35 year old Raina White, of VT, in 3:42:16. There were a total of 224 finishers; the last person, a participant from NY, finished in 6:48.28.
Vincent, whose own 35 finishes in the ETR (he won the race in 1978) is quite remarkable, limits the field to the “first 250 applications received.” However, there are qualifying standards (for example, if you’ve finished a 50 miler in under ten hours within the past year; or a 50K trail race in seven hours, or under, you would be eligible for a spot). There is no wait list. Instead, Vincent says he overbooks, expecting maybe 25 to not make it come race day. He estimates that approximately 70 percent of the 250 athletes allowed represent “returnees.” On the other hand, “Newbies” accounted for about 100 this year.
Only four dropped out and needed to exit the trail this year. There are “sweepers” on the trail who stay back, behind the last runner.
“The sweeps help those in trouble and if someone falls behind schedule they will insist that they exit the course at the aid station,” Vincent said. He continued, “One is a doctor and one is a nurse. They carry first aid and a cell phone.”
I was on a team of volunteers. On ETR event morning we backpacked in water, Gatorade, and snacks to serve at Batavia Kill, the 3rd aid station, nine-tenths of a mile from the trails highest point of elevation – Blackhead Mountain Peak. (This is where the Batavia Kill Trail merges with the Escarpment trail.) We set up the aid station using a large flat- topped rock as a table. It was also a great place to watch the runners come flying in at varying paces. Some were obviously racing hard, while others were simply looking to finish in one piece.
I watched with amazement as one (leading) runner tripped on a rock, skillfully rolling forward to avoid injury. Out of his waist belt pocket, a packet of “Shot Bloks” (consumed for energy during the race) escaped their holding place.
At the aid station, I asked several runners about the conditions out there. A common response was: “A bit slick.” The wet conditions have a hidden benefit too. According to Vincent, participants are more cautious when it’s slick.
“Something I found to be sort of a truth on this course is that when it’s slippery, people tend to run more cautiously, when it’s dry and fast there is less caution and that’s when they have the big crash and burns,” he said. “They push a little harder and take a risk on a dry rock that they wouldn’t on a wet one. When it is wet they are a little cautious, they sit back a little and often we don’t have the dramatic falls.”
No major injuries were reported. However, one person dropped out, with back pain, due to a fall; we supported him, then walked him off the trail (from the Batavia Kill aid station).
The finish area was filled with many very happy athletes (although a few were noticeably dragging, some limping as well). A post-race lunch-celebration was taking place. I asked a finisher for his thoughts:
“It’s a very challenging race and there aren’t too many places that are very runnable. And even [on] those [parts of the trail] there are a lot of rocks and roots to jump over,” he said. He added that he could not develop any type of speed on certain sections.
- View of portion of trail.
Photo Credit: escarpment trail.com
“It’s a good test man,” said another, who had successfully finished his third ETR. “It’s hard; two big climbs and they’re hard,” he said. “It’s a good race for this time of the year.”
I asked Adam Doig, 35-years old, of Saratoga Springs, NY, what brought him back? (He’d just completed his second ETR, this summer, in 4:40:50; good enough for 87th place, overall). Was it simply the challenge? “No, well, no it’s because there is nothing else like this. I mean this race is like nothing else out here. There is – no other race like this, not around here,” he said, at the finish area, before getting on the road to drive home. “I mean, I know out west there are marathons like this. Vermont has a few [similar to escarpment] and there are lots of people around here – some real freaks out here who run these races every couple weeks, but there is really nothing like this, and as far as technical and hard; like a hard trail, I don’t think you are going to find anything harder than this. It is pretty wild.”
2013, ETR, results: http://escarpmenttrail.com/results/2013_results.pdf