The 50k trail race is also known as the “gateway drug” to ultras. Runners looking to move from road marathons or perhaps trail half marathons to their first ultra frequently ask me for 50k race recommendations.
Here are five 50k ultramarathons that I recommend for Tahoe trail runners. Not all are in the Tahoe Basin, but close enough to drive race morning and train on course. They are listed in calendar order.
Gold Rush 50k
Saturday, May 14, 2016
There are many trail runs produced along the Folsom Lake, but the Gold Rush 50k is one of my favorites. The course is point-to-point almost entirely on single track; the aid stations are completely full-service and the finish-line experience is top-notch. Tahoe runners beware, this is a fairly flat course by our standards, so be ready to run the whole thing. Early season training on Truckee’s Emigrant trail and/or Reno’s Steamboat Ditch trail would be advisable. Highly recommended as a first 50k.
The Paiute Meadows Trail Run
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Meet some new trails to the north in Susanville, CA, at the Paiute Meadows Trail Run 50k. While Tahoe’s higher trails are still under snow, drop down to 4,200′ in elevation for some cruising and some climbing single track. Bring the whole family, as they are offering a half-marathon, 4.5-mile trail race and free kids run. All the distances are super-affordable and Active Duty Military get a 50% discount. Another excellent choice for a first 50k and a great way to get to know some hidden gems.
Silver State 50/50
Saturday, May 21, 2016
The Silver State 50k is one of the classics ~ over 30 years old ~ put on by the Silver State Striders in Reno, NV. A 50-miler and trail half marathon are offered on the same day. The course is fairly exposed with lots of climbing. The typical Sierra weather can bring anything from sunny and hot to cold with snow and beautiful dramatic skies. Enjoy supreme on-course and finish-line hospitality courtesy of the local ultrarunning community. With a starting elevation of 4,500′, this is a great mountain training race and a good, challenging first 50k.
Broken Arrow Sky Race
Sunday, June 19, 2016
While I generally wouldn’t recommend a Skyrunner race as a first 50k, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the inaugural Broken Arrow Sky Race 50k coming to Squaw Valley this year. Tahoe’s first Sky Race is sure to challenge and thrill the adventurous mountain runner. While the course is still being finalized with permits, we do know that it will include very technical scrambling and steep climbing. A Vertical K as well as a shorter (16.4 mile) trail race will be offered that same weekend. If you routinely run straight up mountains, sometimes over snow and sometimes scrambling up rocks, then definitely put this 50k on your calendar.
Sierra Crest 50k
Saturday, August 6, 2016
The Sierra Crest 50k and 30k ultra runs cover some of the more runnable trails that Truckee, CA, has to offer. The point-to-point 50k course offers a solid, but manageable, 4,660′ of elevation gain. The entire course is at altitudes of over 6,500′. The Sierra Crest 50k is a well-supported fundraiser produced by the very experienced race team at Auburn Ski Club. In its second year, it is sure to provide a solid course and full race experience. This would be a great first 50k for Tahoe runners and a reasonably challenging mountain 50k for low-landers. Also an opportunity for Castle Peak 100k runners to tune-up and experience overlapping parts of the course.
Two other great races are already full for 2016, but should be on your list for 2017:
The Canyons Endurance Runs
Saturday, May 7, 2016
The Canyons 50k and 100k Endurance Runs traverse the Western States trail and course – out-and-back. The 50k features tons of climbing through the infamous “Canyons.” At least the early May date is typically cooler than WS weekend! Recommended for great support and fun community atmosphere.
Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs
Saturday, July 16, 2016
The TRT 55k is a beautiful mountain course featuring stunning views of Lake Tahoe and outstanding organization and support. If the delicious trails and views aren’t enough, be inspired by the 50- and 100-mile runners out there the same day. Entrance by lottery.