Considered one of the toughest 50k and 30k courses in the south east. The Duncan Ridge Trail 50k/30k offer racers the ability to tackle elevation typically reserved for those in the western states. With the 50k course offering 10,000ft of gain and the 30k clocking in at 5,000ft. Making it even tougher is the notoriously steep grades and a 10 hour cut off for both races. Every year this race sees a good number of DNFs.
Having run the Quest for the Crest, considered the hardest course in the south east I felt confident going into this race. Looking forward to seeing how tough this course could be. And it did not disappoint!
Duncan Ridge Trail 50k/30k
Location: Vogul State Park
Aid Stations: 7 (4 Total, you will hit 3 of them twice)
Running in its 10th year, the Duncan Ridge Trail 50k/30 starts at Georgia’s Vogul State Park. Located roughly 20 minutes outside of Blairsville, GA, the park features several 4,000ft+ mountains. Including the highest point along Georgi’s section of the Appellation Trail.
The first Half of the Race
Both the 50k and 30k courses follow the Coosa Backcountry Trail counter clock wise from the park. This will take you up the Coosa Bald and where you connect with the Duncan Ridge Trail. The climb up Coosa is one of the toughest climbs in Georgia so be prepared. It’s not that you can’t run it, its just that it’s almost 3 miles of constant and sometimes steep uphill. So for most running the entire things is not in the game plan.
Once you make it up to the top of Coosa Bald (around mile 7) you will start your first downhill section. It’s a quick steep mile down to your second aid station at mile 8. This is also where the 50k & 30k courses split. The 30k will beak off onto a small 2ish mile lollipop before returning to aid station 2 and then retracing your way back along the Coosa Backcountry Trail to the start/finish.
The 50k course continues along the Duncan Ridge Trail past aid station 2 for another 7-8 miles before turning around at mile 15.75 and completing the out and back. The decent from mile 7-16 is the easiest part of the course and one of the best places to make a push.
The Second Half of the Race
Once you make the turn around at mile 16 is where the course get tough. Especially from miles 19-24. With the majority of the gain behind you, its not the elevation but the constant steep slope that will have you huffing and puffing. It’s clear that who ever cut the Duncan Ridge trail has never heard of the term “switch back.”
Once you make it back to the top of Coosa Bald it’s time to make up some time with 3 miles of steep downhill. Just be careful! The course in November is typically cover with leaves. Hiding every root, rock, and stump as you barrel down 20-30% grades. So keep those feet up.
From here the course is clear sailing. A 2 mile runnable (if you have anything left) uphill grade followed by 1.5 miles of quick downhill towards to the finish at the main shelter in Vogul.
Food & Aid Stations
Aid station food and volunteers can be the difference between a good and a great race. The volunteers at this race were absolutely amazing! The food offered was good and featured many of the standards. Chips, Gu’s, candy, pretzels, Uncrustables, Gatorade, Coke, and few other things. With the price of this race being well under $100 you really couldn’t as for much more. Nothing over the top and everything you “needed.” That said, I would happily pay an extra $5-10 for some hot food (ie bacon) at the mid point aid station.
Post race food was a to-go style meal. Individually wrapped sandwiches (which were really good), water/soda, & chips. With this being held in 2020 and rules against people gathering, this was a nice way to offer a solid post race meal for tired runners.
Race Report – Ending Notes
This is one tough race! There were 23 DNFs in a race that was that started with 70 runners. That should tell you that this race isn’t one you can just show up to with no training. But if you are looking for a challenge and live in the south east. You need to make sure the Duncan Ridge Trail 50k/30k is on your list. I plan on running this again in 2021 and hope to see you all there!