****For TONS of race day photos taken by friends, family and volunteers, check out —
Several years ago, the collective minds at Appalachian Running Company dreamed up a race idea that would showcase one of our favorite local areas and benefit one of our favorite people.
“Difference in the Dirt” was born.
This trail race showcases Caledonia State Park, Michaux State Forest, and benefits the Ataxia-Telegenascia Children’s Project.
(Ataxia-telangiectasia, or A-T, is a rare genetic disease that attacks children, causing progressive loss of muscle control, immune system problems, and a high rate of cancer.)
With our dear friend Doug Fickel leading the charge, we decided that the theme of the race would be to give people a first class experience running in the woods while running for a cause that was bigger than them. This year was Difference in the Dirt Round 2 and we couldn’t be more excited about how things turned out!
5k Short Course
The Difference in the Dirt 5k had 94 runners toe the line to run within Caledonia State Park. They would traverse creek side trails, dense forest, and one spectator filled hill! Our fearless runners tackled 3 Valleys Trail roughly 1.2 miles into the course — and while spectators blew their vuvuzelas (soccer horns) and rang cowbells, our racers made steady progress up the .6 mile long hill. What goes up must come down and a shorter, but technical downhill awaited them. The last half mile meandered through the woods where one final obstacle awaited them…a cold creek crossing just 50 yards from the finish line!
Spectators blew horns, clapped, and cheered as runners traversed the creek while Doug cheered (and giggled!) and headed across the bridge to the finish line. Some ran through with reckless abandon while others tip toed and eventually succumbed to getting wet!
The ages of participants was incredible. We had the 60+ age group very well represented, there were little guys stomping through the creek on their way to a fantastic 5k finish, and every age in-between. Once at the finish line, everyone could warm up at the fire or grab a doughnut and watch more racers enter the cold creek!
The overall winners of the 5k included Cheryl Scholl, who ran a fantastic 25:21 and Devin Rosencrance, who crossed the line in 23:12. Their awards, as well as everyone that won their age groups –were some homemade hardware compliments of Josh’s woodpile and Doug’s handiwork.
The 14.5 Mile Long Course
The long course included a revised route from our initial Difference in the Dirt. 55 runners completed the 14.5 mile course, which started and finished at Caledonia State Park.
Runners would tackle the Charcoal Hearth Trail, which was a precursor to the rest of the climbs sprinkled throughout the course. Our fearless competitors ran a variety of narrow forest trails and dirt roads on their way to the Long Pine Reservoir. Once at the bottom of the dam to this reservoir, they had to scramble up the spillway while getting cheered on by local shoe store employees! All of their hard work paid off and a beautiful trail around the reservoir awaited them.
After the journey around the reservoir, the steep climb up the Lipencote powerline. This. Is. Steep! Runners flattened this climb with the aid of horn blowers and cow bell ringers and soon their journey led them on a gradual downhill towards the finish.
With some more forest trail running our fearless crew entered the park and completed their journey. Our winners included James Jablin, who crushed the course in 1:58:13 and Allison Longenberger, who flew to a 2:16:14. This race director thought we would be lucky to have anyone break 2 hours for the men and 2:30 for the women but the combination of good weather and very talented and determined runners saw them shatter my prediction!
We had 149 runners complete the races this year and raise close to $5,000 for the ATCP!
Doug has been involved with this foundation for years and while he has seen firsthand the good work they do he is also quite good at helping them continue to do good. If you signed up and paid our entry fee with your hard earned money, please know that Appalachian Running Company does not take the money for profit. We invest heavily into the race and this good cause just like you did and we hope that maximizes the Difference that ATCP makes!
Finally, I would like to thank the HUGE group of volunteers and fans that worked to make this happen. We literally had an army of people willing to help. From marking the course, to making cookies, to running errands, to standing in the creek and everything in between…thank you! To experience all the help and care that people have is to see the best of humanity. Thank you.
Stay tuned for more information about Difference in the Dirt v3.0 over the next few month! 2018 will be bigger, better, and wetter? You’ll have to see!