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 12, 2022
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)
Entry
  • Entry opens on Tuesday February 1, 2022 at 9:00 am. Entry will be limited to 75 runners.
GPX file
Print or download
Sunrise & sunset
  • Begin civil twilight 7:02 am
    Sunrise 7:27 am
    Sunset 7:18 pm
    End civil twilight 7:43 pm
What to wear
In charge
Reports
Course records
  • James Fogg
    4:52:55 (in 2018)
    Robin Watkins
    6:00:36 (in 2017)

The course

The Elizabeth Furnace 50K course is very challenging, composed primarily of mountainous, technical single-track trails, with some stretches of fire roads. Since the event 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.

Entry into the lottery for the 16th annual Elizabeth’s Furnace Fat Ass 50k will open Tuesday February 1, 2022 at 9 AM. The entry will remain open through 9 pm on Monday February 7. The lottery will be run the following afternoon, February 8. The EFA 50k will be utilizing the VHTRC’s lottery system for the 2021 event. 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 runners will be taken into the field, and a wait list will be built. After the Dow Jones helps us select the initial field from the applicants’ list, the wait list will be developed continuing the lottery order of the runners. So it doesn’t matter if you enter early on February 1 or just before entry closes on February 7, your chances of getting into the field remain the same.

All of our Fat Ass events tend to have a fairly large number of entrants ultimately drop from the field. We understand that circumstances will change for some of you between the time you enter in early February and the event week in mid-March. But please take the time to check your calendar, your shape and your genuine interest in racing in the northern section of the Massanuttens in March before you pull that trigger and join the lottery. Of course if you enter and then find that you will not be able to join us for the event, your email to Q or Bur alerting us as early as possible will be very much appreciated, and may even let another fellow runner gain your slot. This applies to wait listed runners, as well. If you know you won’t be able to race even if you do get in off the wait list, it is helpful to know this so we can move the other wait list runners up accordingly.

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.

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. This course has a LOT of turns. In fact, the old Yogi Berra dictum applies to the EFA 50k: If you come to a fork in the trail, take it. At just about every opportunity the runner has to change from one trail to another, with a different color blaze, the course will call upon you to make that turn.

Anyone doing this run might want to consider obtaining the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Map “G” Massanutten Mountain-North Half. It is available at many area outdoor stores as well as online at the PATC site. If you are technically inclined, a GPX file is also available in the column on the upper left for you to download and use during the race.

Meneka Peak
Elizabeth Furnace is the only VHTRC event that goes over Meneka Peak (twice!). The early Spring date features wintertime views with often ideal running weather.

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

The traditional first aid station at Mudhole Gap (mile 10.3) will likely have somewhat limited aid. The second aid station will be in the Elizabeth Furnace parking lot (mile 21.8), and will be fully stocked. Plan for a fun post-run gathering in the Signal Knob parking lot after your finish, as well!

The view from Signal Knob
Follow the Massanutten Trail (stay on orange) out to the the view from Signal Knob.

Cutoffs

There is only one cut off: Runners arriving at the Elizabeth 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!

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.

2021 volunteers

  • Mike Bur
  • Quatro Hubbard
  • Laura Bur (Furnace A.S.)
  • Mila Bur (Furnace A.S.)
  • Matthias Bur (Furnace A.S.)
  • Josh Howe (Furnace A.S.)
  • Tom Corris (Mudhole A.S.)
  • Jeff Best (Mudhole A.S.)

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. Parking can get a little tight on a nice mid-March day, even in this large lot. If you can carpool, please do so; and when parking take care to do so without wasting space. Map.

Last updated May 11, 2021

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.