As Brian Schmidt, of Leesburg, Va., began to recover after finishing first in the Catoctin 50K trail race, a thunderclap announced the coming rain.

At the same time, Jon Karczmarek, 18, was 4 1/2 miles from the finish, tackling one of the more difficult sections of the course. The prospect of rain was a welcome one for Karczmarek, who was running by himself.

"I thought it would be nice if it would rain; sort of mix things up a bit," said Karczmarek, a 2013 graduate of Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.

While Karczmarek admittedly didn't meet a bold goal for his finish time, he finished the course in 30th place with a time of 6:39:14.

Race director Kevin Sayers has operated the Catoctin 50K since 1999, choosing what he hopes will be the hottest week of the year to hold a race.

"Really, it was how hard and hot can we make this run, was the idea behind putting it in the summertime," said Sayers, who hopes to keep the race from growing beyond its current size of about 165 runners.

That challenge has created a lore among area ultra marathoners.

"There's rocks, there's rattlesnakes, there's bees, there's bears. There's a little bit of everything out there, and it wouldn't be the same without it," said Bill Susa, who completed the race for the first time Saturday with a time of 7:15:25.

Asked before the race about his expectations, Susa had no delusions about how difficult the course is.

"It's gonna be a suffer-fest for me; it really is," said Susa, who began trail running in 2007. "Because everybody who runs this race suffers at one point or another. I don't care if you're in the front, or if you're squeaking by, trying to stay under the cutoffs in the rear, there's gonna be times when you're suffering out here."

That lore of an exacting physical and mental challenge is not unwarranted. At least two runners did not make the cutoff time when they reached the first aid station at Hamburg Road, 6 miles into the course. They surrendered their race bib and offered to cut their race short and turn back when they reached the next aid station 3 miles away.

The rain — when it did arrive — did not diminish the runners' enthusiasm about the day, said Sayers, who personally shook the hand of each of the 144 runners who finished the race.

Sayers said he was "very disappointed" with the weather.

"It should be in the nineties," he said.

(2) comments


great report, Mr. Cullen - many thanks for conveying the spirit of the race so delightfully - I finished it about two hours behind the winner this year, and enjoyed every minute of it - especially the rattlesnake sighting at mile 12 and the thunderstorm that drenched me in the final hour!


so, when will you finish writing this article?
I'd like to read it when it's done.

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