This year will be my fourth year running the HAT 50k. The first year I ran it, I said I would never run it again. It is a tough course. Why do I keep running it? Because it is a tough course. Having the HAT on the schedule ensures that you will be training through the winter. But, the real reason I keep running it is because of the crowd the HAT draws every year. Among past participants you will find Steve Speirs, Andy O’Brien, Peter Larson (aka Runblogger,) Christopher McDougall (author of Born To Run,) Coach Caleb Masland, Matt Frazier (No Meat Athlete,) Brody Wise, Stein Langlie, Jenny Jowdy, Adam Palmer, Jonathan Sagner, Paul Gochar, Bart Rein, Kristin Bremer, Juda McGannon, Bobby O’kane, Luke Brandonisio, Johnny Lyons and more local, national, and even international running celebrities. Last year, I even ran into two guys from France that I had run the GORE-TEX TransRockies Run with. It’s a little race with a lot of heart. The crowd makes this a fun race. Imagine a Grateful Dead or Phish concert atmosphere vs the U2 / Coldplay atmosphere of most big marathons. HAT is also very well organized and has terrific volunteers. The aid stations are well stocked with tons of goodies. This is a race to run with friends. If you want tips to win the race contact Coach Caleb Masland or Kristin Bremer. They won it last year. I can give you tips for the HAT 50k and on how to survive it.
- Bring a bag with back ups of everything you think you will need. The course loops through a pavilion three times. Not sure about your shoe choice for this technical trail race? Bring an extra pair, hell bring two extra pair. Don’t like wet socks from stream crossings? You know what to do… bring more socks. Repeat this with all your gear.
- Bring your own water. Usually, they fill the large water jugs with a hose. The hose water has in the past, tasted like it sat in the hose all winter. I run with a hydration pack and refill it at the pavilion with my own water. (good news, after the post we received a note from the race director “Sorry about the H2O. We have replaced the hoses and now use a filtration system at the lower aid station to improve it.”
- Pace yourself. The biggest mistake you can make at HAT is going out too fast. The race starts with a smaller 3.6 mile loop and then your off for two loops of 13.7 miles. If you go out too fast on your first 13.7 mile loop, you will have a very looooong second loop. There is very little flat on the course. You are almost always running up or down. Course info
- The weather is unpredictable in March. One year the temp was 70 degree F, last year it was cool and wet. If you are traveling prepare for both extremes. There are no leaves on the trees in March so if it is sunny, you’ll want a hat or visor. Bring your sunscreen.
- On your second loop you will start to hear the cheers at the finish line. Don’t get too excited, you will be running past the finish line with at least 4 more hilly miles to go before you cross it.
- Let your friends and family know that you won’t be coming straight home. This is one of the best post race experiences I have had. People hang out, and cheer their friends into the finish. Sometimes the only thing that keeps you going to the finish is the idea of a cold beer and some of the french fries they have waiting for you. Stay awhile, revel in the camaraderie and in your achievement.
I have run greater distances than the HAT 50k. This race still ranks as one of the tougher days. It’s not easy, but that is part of it’s allure. You will know that you conquered something after finishing the HAT.