The Start/Finish does not have an "official" address. If you don't select from the Ultrasignup directions link (upper left of webpage) then use the address located across Route 15 from the park entrance. 12917 Catoctin Furnace Rd, Thurmont, MD 21788
At this time there is no entrant limit on the full or half cat. However if it looks like it might tilt to heavily in one direction entry will be closed.
It's an out-and-back on rocky, slow, difficult and demanding (but yet run-able) trail. Starting at the Manor Parking Area in Cunningham Falls State Park runners proceed up Bob's Hill then take a left and follow the Catoctin Blue Trail south bound across the stream, then across Catoctin Hollow Rd then up the hill towards the over look. At the overlook you continue on the Catoctin Blue Trail through the Frederick Water Shed to the Delauter Aid Station then the Hamburg Aid Station. You will continue south on the Catoctin trail though Gambrill State Park till arriving at the Trail Head for the Catoctin Blue trail. There, runners cross Gambrill Park Rd and proceed up the hill to the High Knob area. Once at the top runner bear slightly right to the covered pavilion. Runners will NOT run by the Tea Room. Turn around and repeat back to the start/finish. Mantra: No matter the direction it's always up hill :-)
There are a couple of favorable points to this challenging yet entertaining run: (1) Shade. The course is almost entirely covered with luscious tree foliage. (2) Streams. there are several stream crossings where you can twinkle your toes in cool "beer commercial" type of mountain water and cool down. If we don't have a lot of rain and it's a hot summer the streams will wither up and dry and will tease you with the thought of what they once were. When it's hot its usually really hot. It's puke your guts our type of heat where you want to lay down but that feels worse if you do. If it rains hard during the race then the trail becomes a major water way and it's... hello, where did I put my goggles.
Since this is an out and back on an established trail and has been permanently blazed with light blue blazes on a fair number of trees. The trail will not be marked with the customary engineering ribbons or chalk. No trail maps or orienteering seminars will be conducted. Simply follow the runner in front of you. This should work as long as they don't get lost or take a wrong turn.
Once you reach the half way point its simply a matter of turning around and retracing your steps. Getting lost is always possible but let's hope for the best. Sixty percent of the runners get off course at least once. This course will penalize any runner who runs "heads down". The Catoctin 50k trail run requires that you slow down/stop and look around at each intersection. If you think you know the way without looking around then we wish you good luck and hope your detour is minimal. If you have a habit of not following directions then please don't run. There's no search and rescue which means race management and volunteers have to cover the course and surrounding areas. This is a very unpleasant situation and makes us very "unhappy".
Course questions will be answered at the pre-race briefing. Unreasonable complaints, criticisms, and selfish attitudes will be ignored and race management and/or the appropriate volunteer will administer humility to the participant in question.
Race day will be hot, the rubber on the bottom of your shoes gets really gooey hot, melt synthetic clothing hot, sweat buckets of H2O hot. 2019 is now referred to as the Hell Cat because it was so hot.. Runners were crying on the course and the Finish line looked like a MASH unit. Then again, it might rain. The summer of 1999 the temperature dropped 20 degrees on race day. The over abundance of rocks will be sizzling and the dirt will turn into throat choking dust. Along with the heat is the humidity. It gets, "cut it with a knife" humid. You'll feel like you're swimming in the open air. No matter how acclimated you are this run demands that you carry water. In fact it's mandatory! ALL RUNNERS MUST CARRY AT LEAST ONE 20 oz WATER BOTTLE and TWO bottles if you want to finish the race. In 2007 one bottle runners had an extremely hard and difficult race. An equipment check will be conducted prior to the start to ensure safety and fashion. The Hagerstown Almanac (which has an unnatural record for predicting race day temperatures) predicts that race day will bring us temperatures worthy of ultra lore... hot, humid, hazy, possibility of rain and frustrating. You'll curse the day they created the Catoctin Trail.
First Time Ultra Runners and Hikers :
I'm not going to discourage anyone from trying but... this is a slow and demanding course and not necessarily the best venue to run your first 50k ultra. It has been known to make grown men weep and woman to curse the day race management was born. Once the race starts, sympathy is not displayed to anyone regardless of the circumstance. This is an ultra event and will be conducted accordingly.
If you're using this race to train for anything else but an ultramarathon of 50 miles or longer then you're wasting your effort. If you're trying to get in shape for that special Triathlon, Ironman or marathon we strongly suggest that you choose the Half Cat or a road course for training.
For you hikers if you think you can walk it and finish the 50k in the time allowed you can't. It's been tried on numerous occasions and everyone has failed. Besides, this is a run, not a hike. If you dress like some hiker in the Swiss alps for the 50k then be prepared for ample heckling and humiliation from the trail runner police. Once again... the Half Cat is perfect for you. Trekking poles... please leave them at home. This is an out an back on sometimes narrow trail and we are opposed to you impaling or tripping your fellow runner. If you need poles that are other races I direct where they are allowed and even encouraged.
There are three aid stations along the course making a total of 6 aid opportunities during the race, not including the start/finish area. The stations are fully stocked and supplies will consist of water, soda, sport drink, cookies, pretzels, Pringles, candy, bananas, Succeed! Caps (1 Gram Buffer/Electrolyte Nutritional Supplement) and many other assorted goodies. Pharmaceutical needs are the responsibility of the runner.
| Aid Station || Mile || Time |
| Manor - START || 0 miles || Start: 7:30 am |
| Delauter Rd. || 6 miles outbound || Cutoff: TBD am|
| Hamburg Rd. || 3 miles outbound || Cutoff: TBD am |
| High Knob - TURN AROUND || 16 miles || Cutoff: 11:45 am |
| Hamburg Rd. || 22 miles inbound || Cutoff: TBD pm |
| Delauter Rd. || 25 miles inbound || Cutoff: TBD pm |
| Manor - FINISH || 32 miles || Cutoff: 4:45 pm |
What You Don't Get:
Since this race is geared towards ultrarunners / trail runners, we would rather concentrate on what you don't get rather than what you do get. After all, this isn't a plush west coast race with goodie bags, massage practitioners at every aid station, and impeccably groomed trails that you could run on with wing-tip shoes. So keep the following in mind when considering if you want or would be able to run this race:
- No engineer ribbons to mark the course (we don't want to have to set it up and take it down)
- No personal assistants at aid stations (leave that for the high $$ races)
- No sympathy
- No rides back to the start/finish line (we don't want to embarrass anyone)
- No credit for going off course and adding mileage.
- No trail sweeps to pickup after you or get you moving if you take an extended break.
- No credit for completing the race if you approach the finish line from any direction other than the official course . Can't finish the race if you can't follow the course.
Crews are only allowed at the Start/Finish (Manor), Hamburg Rd. Aid Station and the High Knob Aid Station (turn around). Crews are NOT ALLOWED at Delauter Rd. Aid Station. If a runners is "crew'ed from any other location then they will be DISQUALIFIED. There's no pacing, companion runners, mountain bikers or friends keeping you company on the trail. You must be able to complete this 50k on your own motivation.
Pre-Race Briefing and Check-in:
The briefing will be held race morning at 7:10 AM sharp at the start line at Manor. Check-in and number pickup is from 6:15 to 7:10 am.
The awesome part about changing the start line to Manor is that there's PLENTY of parking! It would still be cool if you'd carpool but if you don't there will be no carpool "assessment" fee. Once the lot fills then we'll close it down and you'll need to park around the play park.
There are bathrooms at Manor and the turn around point (High Knob). Please remember that the race is on public land, so leave no litter of any kind, biodegradable or otherwise. Other organizations have been permanently banned for environmental abuse. We don't want that to happen to us.
You get a one of or a combination of... a wink, smile, handshake, fist bump. Hugs are only given to those about to collapse. We do this so you don't fall and embarrass yourself when the wheels fall off (so to speak). During this welcome back process you be given a prestigious Cat Card. This professionally hand crafted wallet size card entitles the barer to bragging rights and a rightful place in ultra running history.
Post Race Eats:
Around 1:00 we do BBQ and other assorted stuff depending what's on sale at Costco and Sam's Club and what our Rogue Chef Bob Fabia decides to do. There will also be Exploded Potato's from A.K.A. Frisco's in Frederick, chips, water melon, ice cold water, soda, lemonade and "other". There's ample room in the Pavilion as well as trees for a shady comfortable post race collapsing experience. A setting in which to ponder why you ran a race on what could be the hottest day of the year. The Park service allows beer in and around the Pavilion. So its BYOB if that's part of your post race recovery plan.
Rick and Nancy Hamilton conceived and held the first run on Saturday March 5, 1994. The first run was considered a "fun" run with no "official" race results retained or distributed. In 1995 and 1996 it was run as an "official" race. During those two years there was also a 30k race for those unable or unwilling to run the full 50k distance but was stopped in 1999. For those three years the course was a point-to-point, which started at Chestnut Picnic Area in Catoctin Mountain Park and ended at High Knob in Gambrill State Park. Due to logistics and remodeling of the Tea Room and time commitment for the Hamilton's the race was cancelled in 1997 and 1998. After intense negotiations between Ric Hamilton and Kevin Sayers (current race director) the race was revived on Saturday March 13, 1999. That same year a second race was held in August when the race date was permanently moved from the frigid month of March to the hot, humid and intolerable month of August. In 2010 the race was moved to 3rd weekend in July. In 2012 the race was moved to the second weekend of July so the RD could make the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in time. The Half Cat (25k) was established in 2016 for those utrarunners over the age of 52 who are on the down side of their careers and struggle with cutoffs. The course was reversed in 2020 with the Start/Finish line now in the Manor Parking Area. Also in 2020 Half Cat entry was opened to all ages and all abilites.
About the Race Director
Hi, My name is Kevin Sayers and I'm the Race Director. The year was 1994, and I ran across an article about ultrarunning in a magazine and said "I just gotta do that". One hundred miles in 24 hours? What's not to like? Since that time I enjoyed a 39,000 mile running adventure throughout North America. Now, I’m a race director and have made it my mission “to conduct and promote fun and rewarding running events for entrants, crews and volunteers alike”.
As the Race Director I consider my myself a cheerleader who encourages and inspires all to reach their goal. My commitment is to be available at all times during a race and greet every runner at the finish with a smile, hand shake, high five, fist bump or a combination there of.