2017 Rough Trail Recap & Unstoppable Award Winner Announcement

2017 has been one helluva ride for Next Opportunity.  We added events.  We had to cancel some events.  There were ups.  There were downs.  In face, we added so many events this year that most of 2017 has felt like our first rodeo even though we have now been in the race business for over three years.  Big Turtle.  The Reaper 30K.  Timber & Trails 5K.  It has been a year of “firsts”.  Then Rough Trail came this past weekend.  Rough Trail is what started it all for Next Opportunity Events.  In fact, the Rough Trail Ultramarathon (as it was originally called) existed before Next Opportunity Events did.  We formed Next Opportunity for the sole purpose of having an actual business entity behind the formation of the Rough Trail ultra race.  We didn’t know back in 2015 that Next Opportunity would become what it is, but we did know that Rough Trail was so special that it HAD to happen.

When we look at Rough Trail now the event looks vastly different than it did in year one, and it isn’t just the size of the crowd.  We’ve tweaked the course a little year by year, and we have changed the start/finish line locations within Koomer Ridge Campground every year.  I believe that all of those tweaks were just part of the process of molding the event into what it was this past Saturday.  Rough Trail has become something bigger than any of us could have hoped.  We had runners in Red River Gorge on Saturday from 4 countries and 30 states.  Who would have thought we would end up here years ago when I heard moans of, “I wish someone would do an ultra in Red River Gorge.”

Well, we did it!  And I’m not talking about me and Brandy.  I mean WE:  the Next Opportunity family.  Those of you who come out to our events over and over.  Those of you who volunteer your time to help us make these events into smooth running machines.  Those of you who trust us with your time (and money) in the hopes of getting a once in a lifetime experience.  None of this happens without ALL OF US.  

From the bottom of our hearts:  thank you!

Perhaps the biggest difference in the Rough Trail 50K/25K race this year as compared to previous years is the volunteers.  Wow!  We always have great volunteers, but this year at Rough Trail the groups and individuals who gave up their weekends for this race were outstanding.  It would be unfair of me to try to list off everyone by name as I would inevitably leave someone out.  Let me just say this:  we had volunteers doing everything!

Course marshals

Aid stations

Helping load gear for the aid station crews

Parking attendants

Results and Timing

Serving food

Sweeping the course

Directing traffic

Handing out awards

Delivering food

Picking up water

Delivering water to aid stations

Operating radios

If it needed to happen, we had a volunteer do it.  All of us - race organizers and participants - owe these folks a big fat thank you for their incredible help.  

I will take time now to recognize again our aid station groups:  Cave Run-Red River Gorge Mountain Bike Alliance, Wolfe County Tourism Commission, Friends of Powell County Pets, Powell County High School, and Rustic Red Hostel.  They were outstanding on race day, and we can’t thank them enough for keep everyone fed, hydrated, and safe.  It’s easy to forget that aid station crews play a vital role in runner safety by keeping track of every runner as they progress through the course.

Now, here are our final (and random) thoughts coming away from an incredible weekend:

  • This race has gotten SOOOOO competitive.  The winning women’s 50K time, for example, has dropped by 1hr 42min since year 1.  Our 2015 men’s winning time would have been good enough for 5th place this year.
  • Kate Hails absolutely demolished the women’s course record.  That’ll be tough to beat.
  • Zack Beavin (2016 50K champ) walked away with BOTH men’s course records.  He now holds the 4:35:13 50K course record and the 1:56:20 25K course record.  
  • The most humbling and inspiring part of my day is standing at the finish line late in the day as the clock ticks toward and past the cut off time and seeing more trail warriors coming in.  These runners are the unstoppable heroes that refuse to let up, refuse to quit, and refuse to be beaten.  You overcame enormous obstacles and accomplished something that can never be taken away from you.
  • There were some absolutely heartbreaking DNFs throughout the day.  It just goes to show that on any given day the trail can get the best of us, and it is up to us to dust ourselves off (sometimes literally) and get back out there.  We hold each other up in this community, and I personally can’t wait to see all of you race again.
  • Sky Bridge Station really stepped up for the Rough Trail 50K this year by offering such a great place for us to gather past race (oh and the penny beers).  We are so grateful for such a wonderful small business willing to take a chance to sponsor our race. 
  • I love to watch the Flybys on Strava after this race.  It is interesting to see people fly down Tunnel Ridge Road early in the 50K race only to see those same dots slow tremendously once they get onto Rough Trail.  
  • The Red River Gorge community has really embraced this race.  We should all thank them for helping to turn Red River Gorge into a trail running destination.  It ain’t just about rock climbing down here anymore!

Lastly, we want to take this opportunity to announce our first ever UNSTOPPABLE AWARD winner.  Something new for Next Opp, we have been inspired by our runners so much we have decided to present an Unstoppable Award to one runner at each of our events.  The Unstoppable Award is meant to recognize that runner that displayed extreme grit, inspiring motivation, and relentless drive.  The Unstoppable Award is for the runner who never gave up despite all odds and met every obstacle head on.

This year’s Rough Trail 50K Unstoppable Award goes to Greg Beckwith of Indiana.  Greg has run Rough Trail for 2 years.  In those two years, he has logged over 20 hours on the Rough Trail course.  Greg simply refuses to be stopped by the relentless ups and downs and technical terrain of Red River Gorge.  Each year he has made it back to the finish line, and we could not be more inspired by his strength to battle for that long and his determination to beat this course.  

Thumbs up!  Greg Beckwith left at sunrise and returns at sunset.  Relentless!

Because we want to hear all of the stories of those trail warriors from race day, we are not able to present the Unstoppable Award at the race.  Instead, we recognize Greg’s accomplishments here and will be sending the Unstoppable Award via mail. Greg will also receive a free entry to Rough Trail 2018.  Please join us in saluting Greg Beckwith - the 2017 Rough Trail 50K Unstoppable Award recipient!

See y’all next year!

Mike & Brandy

Michael Whisman1 Comment