The Baker Trail UltraChallenge is a 50-mile ultramarathon on the Baker Trail. The race starts at 6:30 AM; the deadline for finishing is fourteen hours later, 8:30 PM. Individuals as well as relay teams of up to 5 members may register. In 2018 the race traversed the Central section of the trail, the second leg in the three-leg series. In 2019 we cover the South section. Each year, a piece of a unique three-piece medal will be awarded to all individual finishers. When a participant has completed all three sections, they'll receive a handsome commemorative holder to display all three medals.
The Baker Trail is marked as a typical hiking trail. Yellow blazes on trees, telephone poles, fence posts, guard rails, and so on indicate the path. Unlike many hiking trails, the Baker Trail is not always a footpath through the woods. In many areas, it follows dirt or paved country roads, some with narrow shoulders. As with road running everywhere, you must always be alert and cautious.
Because of the varying terrain, the UltraChallenge is more mentally demanding than similar ultras. You must always be watching for the blazes in order to stay on the course. In places, the Trail will be following a road only to abruptly turn off the road into the woods. Therefore, if you haven't seen a blaze in a few minutes, you may be off course and should backtrack to the last blaze and determine where you went wrong. Plenty of runners will go off-course at least once during the day. If you expect -- and accept -- that you will, too, it won't be quite as frustrating. The key to a successful race is to realize it quickly.
The 2019 race check-in and finish line is located at the Youssef-Slak farmstead in western Pennsylvania's Amish countryside. Camping is encouraged around the farm (there's no livestock) on Friday or post-race on Saturday. A large barn is also available for sleeping, as well as access to the full bathrooms in the house. A bus will take runners to the start on race morning.
The beautiful farm is owned by artist Hisham Youssef and his wife, Rebecca Slak, who lovingly open their property to the race in support of the Baker Trail and the running community.
The 2019 race follows the South section of the Baker Trail, which has these characteristics:
- About 30 miles of the course is on paved or dirt country roads.
- The trail sections have good footing; rocks or roots aren't prevalent.
- At mile 5, there is a 40-foot rope climb up a very steep slope covered in loose shale.
- At mile 8, there is a steep 70-foot descent and ascent through a hollow.
- There are a number of unbridged creek or drainage crossings along the course. Unless there is significant rain, all can be jumped across or crossed on rocks or other objects
There are nine aid stations along the course providing water, Gatorade, sport gels, sandwiches, and fruit. Candy such as M&Ms; and other snacks will be available at some stations. Four of these stations are also relay transfer spots and checkpoints where your tag will be scanned and your split time recorded.
Please adhere to these rules or risk disqualification:
Local time: 4:23 AM
- Runners must ensure their tag is scanned at the start line, at each of the checkpoints, and the finish line.
- Relay runners finishing a leg must scan before the departing teammate scans.
- Runners must depart the checkpoint by the designated cutoff time. However, runners will be permitted to miss one of the first three cutoff times, provided it is by less than 30 minutes. Exceptions to this rule may be granted during the race and are solely at the discretion of the Race Director.
- Runners are not permitted to obtain any outside assistance. If a runner leaves the course for any reason (including getting lost), they must return to the course by their own power at the point they left it.
- Pacers are not permitted for relay runners.
- Pacers are permitted for individual runners beginning around mile 32 (TBD). Pacers may not carry food, drink, or gear for the runner or provide any other assistance. Pacers are permitted to consume aid station food and drink. Runners are permitted one pacer at a time, and pacers must be at least 18.
- Support crews may meet their runner anywhere along the course, but must not impede traffic. Crews must not park or operate (a) on private property without permission from the property owner, nor (b) in an unsafe manner or location. Runners are responsible for the conduct of their support crew.