by Jason Karpinski
Over 300 runners gathered at the start line with “The View” looming overhead. Race Director Craig Fleming briefly addressed the participants and quickly gave up the mic because “he worked too hard not to run the race.” The gun goes off and the shuffle of feet begins. This was my first time at the heralded Hyner Challenge course in North Bend, PA. The misfortune of the Hyner cancellation earlier in the year became my fortune to enter this “once-and-done” race. A course which featured many of the staples in this area, including: Humble Hill, Cliffhanger, Post Draft, and the seemingly vertical SOB Hill.
As the first couple miles unraveled, I somehow ended up immediately ahead of previously mentioned RD, Craig Fleming. This unique experience gave me an inside look into the preparation taken to make the course race-ready. Such preparation involved cutting downed trees, re-routing the usual course to add a mile and more elevation (because the regular course simply would not cut it), and even leaf-blowing several miles. While learning of the work put into the course, I had my first Humble Hill experience, which will certainly not be forgotten. Shouts of joy could be heard from a select few runners picking their way up and up and up. Approximately 1900 feet of elevation gain and we reached the first aid station around mile 3.5. Crews at this aid station and the 2 others were quick to help the runners and offer words of encouragement.
The miles continued, as did the hills. Around mile 8 we hit a section of the course which was believe it or not, downhill. However, this downhill was unlike any I have ever run–approximately 3/4 of a mile steady downhill marred with large, grapefruit-sized rocks (an absolute ankle destroyer). Moisture on the course was nearly non-existent, which in my opinion made for a great race day, but it was almost too clean. That is, until we reached mile 10 and were faced with SOB Hill–a hill which is wrought with loose dirt and stones, and what seemed like a 70° pitch. Luckily this was the last of the hills, and we were told at the third aid station that the last 4-5 miles were flat or downhill.
The last several miles flew by and before you knew it you were crossing the finish line to a round of applause, cheers, and cow-bells from the on-lookers and those who run just a bit faster than I. Hot food and cold beverages awaited, as did a beautiful mid-day ride back home where the memories of the day were relived with others and stored for later runs. The Hyner course and surrounding area is one that should not be missed and added to trail running fans’ wish lists. I know I will certainly be back in the future.
Keep running, smiling, and being kind to others.