Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Great Big Creek Marathon

If you are looking for a good marathon route in Great Smoky National Park here is a good one:
Great Big Creek Marathon
Just please don't be disappointed when it is only 25 miles. If you are disappointed, just run a half-mile up and down the road, or whatever... But with really only two climbs and two descents for a total of  6800' of climbing over those 25 miles this route has a lot to offer.

I chose to do the loop counter-clockwise this time. By heading up Chestnut Branch and to the top of Mt. Cammerer first I hoped to get a lot of the technical trail out of the way early so as to be able to make better time on the backend but when you are running a solo marathon deep in the mountains you never know what might happen.

In this case, nothing much happened. It was a great, long, hard run.

It is a long way up to the top of Mt. Cammerer but a quite pleasant one and I enjoyed it quite a bit


And then you get to the top.


And a very scenic fire lookout.


It is all Downhill From There and there were quite a few fellow trail runners on that stretch of the AT as well as several interesting trees. 



Every downhill has to end and this one does at a really Big Creek.


And like I said there are really only two climbs and two descents on this route to the tune of 6800' vertical gain, so after that Big Creek there was a big climb ahead. I paused and ate some food, put some music on and mentally prepared for the last half of this not-quite-a-marathon marathon. Earlier in the day, it had looked like it was going to storm at any point and was definitely storming on Mt. Sterling where I was headed but for now, everything was clear. There would be no storms. This finish would be between me and my mind.

So, I hit play and started up Swallow Fork. I had my head down and was just trying to focus on the task ahead - three thousand feet up a mountain, and then more than that down the other side. Thirteen miles. Simple. Listen to the music play. 

And then I hear a noise. Is that some new Phish effect? NO! THATISARATTLESNAKE!

If this guy had wanted to hurt me I'd be dead. What amazing creatures!


And then a slog to the top. It really is thousands of vertical feet. The reward is that you are literally as deep in the mountains as you can get and when you think it couldn't possibly hurt anymore it does and then when you think it could't possibly go on any longer it does and then when you've resigned yourself to whatever it is that lies ahead, - there it is.


Literally downhill from here. Like seven miles of downhill from here. Think about that - seven miles, straight downhill.... Yep, better do that half mile out and backat the finish to make it a legit marathon!


If that isn't easy enough you can always just stay on the ridge all the way to tri-corner knob. That will kick the mileage up past the 50k mark or so. I plan on doing this on 9/14. Come join me.
Big Creek 50k

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