Nov 17 2016

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

By: Greg Roques

The clock nears midnight on a Saturday in New Orleans, and for countless crowds of partiers the glass slipper is about to expire as the night stumbles into its staggering second act. On the contrary, about an hour and a half north of the city at Bogue Chitto State Park in Franklington, LA, a svelte gathering of roughly 100 athletes is lacing up their shoes for an entirely different type of turn-up.

This rarefied breed of weekend warriors is about to participate in the Chupacabra Trail Run, a race featuring both five- and 10-mile distances kicking off at the start of Sunday. While a weekend fun run is not unusual—and a night run not unheard of—what makes this event special is that it is held on nature trails, meaning the only lights blazing your way are those you carry with you. Most participants lining up are equipped with two or more means of illumination, including headlamps and wrist or shoe lights, as well as hauling a few backups.

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

While the ill-lighted atmosphere is a unique selling point for those in search of a new challenge, it’s the earthy terrain that is the centerpiece of the event. Though the majority of the runs put on by host agency Q50 Races take place during the day, all are set on rural routes spanning the entire state of Louisiana.

“Like many people, I started off doing road races,” says Cesar Torres, who founded Q50 Races in Louisiana seven years ago. “I did my first trail run in 2006, and after that, I can’t go back to the roads. Never again.”

Torres’s motivation came after visiting Fontainebleau State Park, just off the Causeway on the Northshore.

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

“I thought, what a great place to have a run,” says Torres. “So many people spend their lives in front of TVs and computers and never visit the beautiful parks we have in our state. So I created a way to help people discover them. I figured if people enjoyed the races we host, then they would take their families back to experience the parks again later. And this has been the case.”

Torres’s mission could not be more mindful in today’s world. As if running in a crowded city is not already a human game of Frogger, our situational awareness is now anemic thanks to the attention-draining forces of fitness trackers, streaming music and various smartphone distractions. The thought of running free of traffic, streetcars and electronic appendages—while listening only to the rustling of branches through a quiet breeze and your shoes as the stomp over dry fall leaves—sounds like nothing short of a vacation.

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

Indeed, it is these picturesque opportunities one is meant to observe during a Q50 Race.

“The point is not who gets to the finish line first, but to enjoy where you are,” says Torres. “It’s ok to stop and look at a stream or a beautiful sunset.”

Torres even credits these earthly touches as the inspiration behind Q50’s night runs.

“There are certain things you can only experience at night,” he explains. “For example, during the Chupacabra run, people said they heard the howl of coyotes ... others saw some deer. You wouldn’t see these animals during the day when it is crowded.”

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

Torres credits his group’s good relations to Louisiana’s state parks not only to the new audience his events attract, but also to Q50’s commitment to “never leaving a trace of waste.” While hydration stations are provided during Q50 races, participants are required to carry their own water bottles, eliminating the Mardi Gras-esque pile up of paper cups you often see at water stops during road races.

In addition to those in search of more scenic stomping grounds, Q50 also markets itself to those looking to push their physical boundaries beyond those of standard road races. The 2017 calendar is host to a few races that are daunting to even a seasoned marathoner, and its website’s “About Us” page even credits the attraction of these types of events to a “growth in interest in extreme sports.”

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

This is a refreshing perspective to inveterate runners everywhere, specializing in all distances. I’ve often wondered why marathons, triathlons and ultras (any run longer than a marathon) aren’t held in the same esteem as other extreme sports … they are no less, if not more, physically and psychologically intense. Perhaps it’s because the breaking point one reaches hours into a race is not as visual as, say, a wipe out during a kiteboarding or parkour competition when watched on YouTube. However, those who have done one or more runs of marathon-length or beyond know just how extreme these can be.

One such event in 2017 is the March Extravaganza, a two-day event again held in Bogue Chitto State Park. Runners can register to participate in up to three separate races over the course of the weekend, ranging in distances from five to 52 miles.

Distance aside, trail runs come with a unique set of challenges. For one, the routes are not as even as those of road races and can include obstacles such as fallen trees and streams, meaning participants need to pay greater attention to their surroundings. Additionally, as fewer aid stations are present, runners must plan ahead for their caloric and hydration needs, particularly for longer races.

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

Finally, all Q50 runners are required to carry a whistle to call for help in case they become ill or injured. Many stretches can be quite remote, and runners are instructed that it may take a moment before first aid responders can reach them, particularly during a night run. Thankfully, Torres says, he has yet to have a runner experience complications.

In addition to the March Extravaganza, Q50’s other ultra run of 2017 is by far its most exciting. The race coordinator just finalized a partnership with the World War II Museum, and will be hosting the first in an annual series of runs retracing historic paths through Europe taken by our soldiers during the Great War. The inaugural run will be a 50k (31 miles), limited to 60 participants beginning at Omaha Beach on October 7, 2017. Omaha is one of the five Allied Forces landing sites in Normandy during the invasion of German-occupied France in 1944. Registration begins December 1, and more details are available through Q50’s website and Facebook page.

Despite the grueling length and untamed terrain of some of Q50’s events, Torres stresses that his events are for everyone, runners and walkers alike.

“We are like a big family,” says Torres. “People often run and walk in groups during our races. The important thing is that everyone is out together experiencing the world.”

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

In keeping with this culture of support, a portion of all the proceeds from every Q50 event goes toward the New Orleans Mission, a non-profit providing meals and shelter to those living on the streets. Torres, who also volunteers with the Mission several times each week, often invites runners to bring donations such as clothing and cleaning products to races for him to take back to the shelter.

Already committed to delivering a one-of-a-kind experience, Torres’s races are exceptional down to every last detail. For one, Torres calls each and every person who registers for a Q50 race to thank them and offer details prior to the event. He also hires different artists along the Gulf Coast to design the medals and plaques he awards participants at his events.

“When I decided I was going to [start Q50 Races], I wanted to give people something they couldn’t get anywhere else,” says Torres. “The venue, the medals, everything had to be unique. I wanted people to want to come back to the races and the parks again and again.”

And they do.

Those interested in learning more about Q50 Races, including its 2017 race schedule, can visit www.q50races.com, or like with them on Facebook at “Q50 Races.”

2017 Q50 Race Schedule:

Q50 Races Resolutions Run

January 7, 9 a.m.
Spillway, Norco
5 and 10 mile runs

March Extravaganza

March 4 and 5, times vary
Bogue Chitto State Park, Franklington
Register for up to 3 different distances over the 2-day event:
March 4 distances: 5 miles, 10 miles
March 5 distances: 13 miles, 26 miles, 39 miles, 52 miles

 

Sunset Run

April 1, 5 p.m.
Grand Isle State Park, at the beach
6.5 and 13.1 mile runs

 

Cinco De Mayo Run

May 6, 9 a.m.
Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville
3 and 6 mile runs

 

Run to the Hills

June 3, 9 a.m.
Bogue Chitto State Park, Franklington
5 and 10 mile runs

 

Bleau Moon Run

August 5, 8:45 p.m.
Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville
5 and 10 miles

 

Q50 5Kanine Trail Run

September 16, 9 a.m.
Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville
5k and 1.5 miles*

* This race is for dogs and their human runners; runners can participate without dogs, but will not be eligible for prizes if they do so.

Taking it to the Trails: Q50 Races Offers Extreme Running in Remote Locations

 

Q50 Races Normandy

October 7, 2017
Time: TBD

Normandy, France
50k, 25k, and 14k

 

 

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