SPONSORED

In 2018, America is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System. This milestone anniversary offers the perfect opportunity to explore America’s exceptional scenic and historic trails – including those in and around the greater Pittsburgh area. One of the easiest and best ways to explore these trails is trail running!

Whether you’re an avid trail runner or a newbie searching for a challenge, look no further than the GAP Trail Relay to see the various nationally-designated trails that make up the Great Allegheny Passage.

Presented by UPMC Health Plan, the two-day race will challenge relay teams to tackle 24 legs of varying distances on the 150-mile trail from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Here are eight things you should know about the inaugural GAP Trail Relay scheduled for October 12-13:

  • You have a chance to be part of something new.

This race is the first of its kind for western Pennsylvania since the final section of the GAP Trail from West Homestead to Pittsburgh was not completed until June 2013, thirty-five years after construction first began. You can experience this nearly level, multiple use rail-trail system — along with its rivers, wildlife and nearby towns — in a very unique way.

  • There is running, but it’s not all running.

Sure, there are 150 miles of running but there will also be driving, cheering, sleeping, eating and more. That makes for a fantastic two-day event that is part racing, part camping trip, part race-spectating, and in a way, part vacation! Sounds like one heck of an adventure, right?

  • Adventures like this are meant to be shared.

This two-day event is designed to be experienced with great friends, family members or maybe even new running buddies. You have the option to sign up as a four-person “ultra” team or regular eight-person relay team; there is also the “four-pack” option where you will be paired with another team of four if you cannot fill all eight spots on a regular team. Whatever your team size, just know you will share incredible moments throughout the 150-mile race and celebrate being one small part of an amazing accomplishment after crossing that finish line.

  • Talk about a scenic course.

If you have never run on a trail, you should know that escaping into the woods gives you an experience that a road run often cannot. The GAP Trail is the perfect example, as it soars over valleys, snakes around mountains and skirts alongside three rivers. The race course will take you through the Cumberland Narrows; across the Mason-Dixon Line and Eastern Continental Divide; weave through the breathtaking Laurel Highlands; wind its way through Ohiopyle State Park; journey through the region’s coke, coal, mining, and steel-making corridor; and end at Pittsburgh’s majestic South Shore Riverfront Park.

  • You will have time to stop and explore a trail town.

The GAP Trail traces America’s westward expansion through a chain of runner-friendly trail towns, so you will have everything you need along the way. Since regular eight-person teams will be divided into two groups traveling in separate vans, you could easily make a pit stop at one or more of the eight towns that offer easy access to trailheads, restaurants and more along the GAP Trail. They are the perfect places to take a break, connect to local history and enjoy a meal before your next leg.

  • The photo opportunities are endless.

Each eight-person team member will run three legs of varying distances while each four-person “ultra” team member will run six legs. No matter which legs you end up running, you will no doubt come across breathtaking sites that you just cannot pass by. Your leg could include one of four tunnels, one of 11 bridges, the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania, Big Savage Mountain Overlook that looks out on four states, or a glimpse of the roller coasters at Kennywood Park. Be sure to have your phone charged and ready to capture the moment!

  • Celebrating your accomplishments is part of the experience.

Formerly the site of massive steel mills and residences for its workers but now a popular neighborhood in Pittsburgh, the South Side meets the GAP Trail on the downtown side of the Hot Metal Bridge and it’s where you’ll cross the finish line. After you share photos and exchange stories during the post-race party at South Shore Riverfront Park, you can don your medals for a night out in this funky, vibrant hive of shopping, entertainment and creative activity.

  • If you haven’t already, you will fall in love with trail running.

In addition to having spent an unforgettable weekend with your teammates and other runners, you’re sure to fall in love with the views and endorphin-filled feeling of racing through the woods with the wind at your back. You may even want to come back for more!

If you’ve ever wanted to see the Great Allegheny Passage from beginning to end, this is the race for you! Recruit your friends, family, co-workers and/or running buddies now to start training for the ultimate relay challenge – on foot. Registration for the 2018 GAP Trail Relay is now open. To register or for more information, visit: www.gaptrailrelay.org.