Geoffrey Baker makes his way across Doll Ridge on the Tuscarora Trail during the 2017 Elizabeth Furnace 50 km.

Diane Behm

Elizabeth Furnace 50 km

A rocky, technical 50 km near the northern end of the Massanutten range. Named for nearby Elizabeth Furnace, one of four iron blast furnaces operated in Fort Valley during the 19th Century.

Date
  • Sat Mar 13, 2021
Start location
Start time
  • 7:00 am
Distance
  • 30.5 miles
Total ascent/descent
  • 6,400 feet
Aid stations
  1. Mudhole Gap (10.3 miles)
  2. Elizabeth Furnace (21.8 miles)
GPX file
Print or download
Sunrise & sunset
  • Begin civil twilight 6:59 am
    Sunrise 7:25 am
    Sunset 7:18 pm
    End civil twilight 7:45 pm
What to wear
In charge
Reports
Course records
  • James Fogg
    4:52:55 (in 2018)
    Robin Watkins
    6:00:36 (in 2017)

Entry

Entry into the lottery for the 15th annual Elizabeth’s Furnace Fat Ass 50k will open Monday January 27, 2020. The entry will remain open for the next week, through 9 pm on Monday February 3. The lottery will be run on Tuesday afternoon, February 4. The EFA 50k will be utilizing the VHTRC’s lottery system for the 2020 race. So entry will be based on the closing figure for the Dow Jones and the closing direction (up or down) will determine the direction the lottery will proceed in. 75 will be taken into the field, and a wait list will be built. The initial applicants who remain on the wait list will get preference if they are members of the VHTRC. Late entrants will go to the bottom of any wait list that may be built, regardless of club membership.

As an FYI, entry for the 2019 EFA 50k opened on January 30, to VHTRC members only. It closed in record time after the entry limit of 110 runners was hit (roughly 7 hours after entry opened up that morning). Hence, the switch in 2020 to a lottery, and removal of the requirement that entrants be VHTRC members to enter (though club membership will receive priority on the initial wait list over non-members).

For the 2018 EFA 50k, entry also opened on January 30. Entry in both years was restricted on the first day to active VHTRC club members only. In 2018, we opened entry up to all-comers early on January 31. We reached the field limit in 2018 and closed entry on February 2nd. Ultimately, by the time the 2018 race day arrived, our starting field had winnowed down to the desired 75 runners. In 2019, the field filled in seven hours.

The course

Know what you are getting into

The Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K course is very challenging, composed primarily of mountainous, technical single-track trails, with some stretches of fire roads. Since the race is being held in the mountains in late winter, the weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared! Virtually the entire course is forested, so blowdowns and other trail obstacles may be encountered. Under normal conditions there will not be any significant stream crossings, but wet feet and mud are likely on the Mudhole Gap and lower Sherman Gap portions of the run, and in wetter years, on other portions of the course. And the five stream crossings in the Mudhole Gap section may, under unusual circumstances, turn into significant water obstacles (see 2010 event photos). If you are not used to running for extended periods unaided on very technical trail, you may want to pass on this run.

Elizabeth Furnace 50 km elevation profile
Elizabeth Furnace 50 km elevation profile.

All runners must carry turnsheets describing the various blazed trails that will be followed over the course of the run. The turnsheet may be downloaded in the sidebar. Be sure to print it out and bring it with you, as it won’t be available at the start. There will be no other trail markings other than the blazes.

Anyone doing this run should also have the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Map “G” Massanutten Mountain-North Half (George Washington National Forest, VA and WV, VA-56 southward to US-211). It is available at many area outdoor stores as well as online at the PATC site.

If you are prone to getting lost on trail runs with unmarked trails, then this run is not for you. If you are color-blind, this run also may not be for you? The course is well marked, but it is marked only by the blazing along the trails.

Cutoffs

There is only one cut off: Runners arriving at the Elizabeth’s Furnace aid station at 21.8 miles after 2:30 PM will be asked not to continue – not that anyone getting there after 7-1/2 hours would be likely to try to continue, especially with the evil climb on the pink trail up to Shermans Gap looming. That final loop of Shermans to Shawl gaps, with a particularly rocky and rolling section of ridge trail connecting them, takes most mid and back of the pack runners close to the 3 hours to negotiate. It is not easy - but it is great training and big fun!

Aid stations

This Fat Ass event will have relatively limited aid. Much of this course is inaccessible except on the trails at this time of year, since the Forest Service has to close some of their unpaved roads during the winter. The runners will provide the aid. Each runner in the field will receive an e-mail early on race week to confirm his or her intent to run EFA, and to assign the runner an aid station item to bring to the race start. Items assigned will be basic - Gatorade, soda, chips, cookies, etc.

Aid StationSplitCumulativeCutoffMap
Mudhole Gap10.3 mi10.3 mi
Elizabeth Furnace11.5 mi21.8 mi2:30 pm

Aid stations will be located at two points on the course. The first aid station will be at Mudhole Gap (mile 10.3). This aid will be hiked in by the volunteers. The second aid station will be in the Elizabeth’s Furnace parking lot (mile 21.8). We also traditionally have some nice grub at the finish in the Signal Knob parking lot, courtesy of the VHTRC.

Volunteers

If you can’t run but want to come out and play anyway, we would be happy to get some help from volunteers. Ideally, we would have a few volunteers hike in to the Mudhole Gap trail head to man that aid station; additional volunteers to help at the Elizabeth’s Furnace aid station (right next to a parking lot, so no hiking required here); and a couple of volunteers to handle the finish line with the RDs. Please contact Quatro Hubbard or Mike Bur if you have any questions about the Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K.

2019 volunteers

  • Chef Sarah Smith
  • Mike Bur
  • Quatro Hubbard
  • Bob Phillips
  • Gary Knipling (Furnace A.S.)
  • Kari Anderson (Furnace A.S.)
  • Ashley Carr (Furnace A.S.)
  • Eric McGlinchey (Furnace A.S.)
  • Carrie Drummond (Furnace A.S.)
  • Quinn & Critter (Furnace A.S.)
  • Megan Kurisky (Furnace A.S.)
  • J.P. Kurisky (Mudhole A.S.)
  • Elsa Araujo (Mudhole A.S.)
  • Lydia Durand (Mudhole A.S.)
  • Aaron Ellison (Mudhole A.S.)
  • Dave Woll (Mudhole A.S.)
  • Josh Howe (Mudhole A.S.)
  • Rick Henry (Signal Knob/Finish)
  • Mike Hart (Signal Knob/Finish)

Directions to the start at Signal Knob:

From the DC Beltway (I-495) take 1-66 West approx. 60 miles to US 340 south (Exit 6, - the second Front Royal exit). Follow US 340 south 1.1 miles to the traffic light at VA Route 55. Turn right onto VA 55 and follow it west for 5.2 miles to Waterlick. Turn left (south) onto VA Route 678. Follow VA 678 1.8 miles into George Washington National Forest, and a total of 3.4 miles to the marked entrance of the Signal Knob parking lot, located on the right-hand side of the road. Plenty of parking spaces are available in this lot. Map.

Last updated June 16, 2020

Club Event Participant Medical Policy

This is an event with very real risks to your well being. The VHTRC does not provide medical care for runners at this event. Runners are responsible for their own health, safety, and well being at this event. No doctors, nurses, or emergency medical technicians, or anyone with any medical training are available along the course, at any aid station, or at the finish. The club does not supply any medical goods or services, including bandages, splints, antiseptic, or Ibuprofen or any other drugs to maintain the health of runners. Physical, medical, and emergency care is the runners' responsibility. In case of an emergency, we will endeavor to get local emergency personnel to an injured runner as soon as possible. Since most of our events are in remote areas, medical care may be far away in distance or time. Each year, runners finish — or are forced to drop out — with scrapes, deep cuts, hematomas, dislocations, and sprains. Runners have experienced cuts, bruises, bee stings, and asthma attacks. This is an event with very real risks.