The 2016 running of the Elizabeth’s Furnace Fat Ass 50km was held in nearly spring-like conditions on Saturday March 12. At the 7:02 AM start the temperature at the start line in the Signal Knob parking lot was in the mid 40’s, and it later climbed into the low 60’s. The course was dry and the water levels for the stream crossings were noticeably down this year. A large majority of the runners arrived at the first aid station at the end of the Mudhole Gap section of the course with dry feet. This, despite five stream crossings that generally cannot all be navigated without getting wet at this time of the year. The infamous ‘mini-Kerns Mountain” section that followed — the blue-blazed section up on Dolls Ridge — was also in much better shape than usual, with the leaf litter cleared to a large extent, and the trail much more defined and easier to follow (while still fairly rocky at times). After marking many key turns in the 2015 run, yet seeing a number of runners get off course in the latter, unmarked sections, run management decided to eschew all course markings, and to return to the essence of the EFA: allowing the runners to just follow the turn sheet and their maps, and depend on the blazes to make their way around the convoluted 50k course. The runners did their homework, brought their navigational aids, and with very few exceptions, did an excellent job staying on course this year! From comments after the run, this clearly was a well-earned source of pride equal to many a runners’ actual finishing time.
Matt Bugin came up from the Richmond area and led virtually from start to finish. His time of 5:17:49 is now the third fastest for this event, topped only by Brad Hinton’s 5:16:53 in 2013 and Dave Frazier’s amazing 4:59:32 in 2014. Matt had a 10 minute lead by the first aid station, a little over 10 miles into the run. Jack Kurisky and Danny Mowers were in second together through the two aid stations, but by the finish Jack pulled away to finish in second alone, just under 10 minutes behind Matt. Daniel and James Fogg passed Danny for third and fourth in the Sherman Gap section of the course, and Danny held on for fifth overall. James Fogg’s time was particularly impressive in that he planned to fuel up at the finish, and then set off for another 50k run, doing his own variation of the EFA course, in order to get a longer training day under his belt (and on his feet).
The women’s run was led early by Angela Russell. Sadly for Angela, she would go away from the run with one of the signature finishers Girl Scout cookie boxes, but it was for Best Blood rather than for what was shaping up to be her third EFA 50k win in a row. Emily Clay had a very steady day and ultimately it paid off, as she took the win on the women’s side of the field in a time of 7:02. This time ties her with Michele Harmon for the fifth fastest in event history. Michele still owns the run record of 6:23:05, set back in 2008. Diana Widdowson made the run look easy while locking up second in 7:46, and Carrie Anderson took third in 8:40. The best blood award winner on the men’s side was a very determined Art Perraud. John Wirth gave Art a run for this award, badly spraining his ankle early in the run while descending the Big Blue trail from Meneka Peak. But Arts display of copious amounts of blood sway the jury to present him with the Girl Scout cookies over Johns swollen ankle.
As with any of these events, tremendous volunteer response makes this run a joy to direct. Thanks to all who came out to support their fellow runners on run day! Thanks also to the VHTRC for sponsoring the event, and in particular for funding the post-race feed in the Signal Knob parking lot. See you all back in the upper Massanutten Mountains next March for the 2017 running of the Elizabeths Furnace Fat Ass 50k!