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Chad Wamack, Runn’n scared at the Chattooga 50K

Rock/Creek Race Team member Chad Wamack and his wife Lisa recently participated in a unique grassroots ultra run called the Chattooga 50k. Here he provides a quick race report:

The Chattooga 50K is part of a grassroots race series that Terri Hayes race directs in South Carolina. Terri is a long time ultra runner and her vision is to host a down to earth run in the woods, literally. All the races are free and are solely done on the hard work of Terri and some great volunteers. I found a great sense of community and a refreshing vibe. Terri says it well on her website, http://ultrasontrails.com/

“Although each participant will be timed, I prefer to call these events runs, rather than races. You are only competing against yourself and your goal is to finish. My goal, as organizer and race director, is to provide you, the runner, with what you need to be able to finish while hopefully having fun. After more then 25 years and well over 200 ultras completed, ultras are still my passion. I want to give back to the sport and encourage others to follow in my footsteps. All of the events will be low-key, but will be the kind of events that I would want to participate in.”

The Chattooga 50K follows the Chattooga River along the foothills trail system for some incredible scenery. The race is in South Carolina but don’t let that fool you. This is not in the coastal plains but rather a few miles from the North Carolina and Georgia border in the headwaters of the Chattooga River. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in this region kayaking and after reading the race description I quickly recognized this run is along Sections 0 and 1 of the Chattooga River. The entire Chattooga River is designated as a Wild and Scenic River but only Sections 0 and 1 are illegal to paddle. I had never explored this part of the river and the Sumter National forest so it was the perfect excuse for a road trip.

Lisa and I found ourselves at Cherry Hill campground late Saturday night along with Terri and her crew of volunteers. We got the tent set up just before dark and went straight to bed. 5:30 am came early but once I got up and got the uniform on I was ready to get to work! After the pre race briefing I was standing there fidgeting and stretching and I noticed the single file line heading out! Wow, this is really a laid back race. No horns or sirens, you just start running, I like it already. The trail description had mentioned that the course had “some technical sections” and I was very apprehensive going into this run due to an ankle injury. After the first few miles I thought “what the hell am I doing here”? The first five miles were exactly what I had been trying to avoid for weeks. The really scary thought was that if I survived the first five miles of this out and back course, I would get to run it again on tired legs! I could hear the choppers circling…”Black Hawk down”! I was runn’n scared all day.

The other 16 miles of the course continue on beautiful single track through the Sumter National Forest. Fortunately I was able to stay focused while enjoying a great course. The aid station volunteers were eager to please and well stocked. Terri and her crew do a great job hosting a race with some good southern hospitality.