Categorized | Primary, Ultra Running Races

Mystery Mountain Marathon (MMM) 10/10/10

Posted on 02 September 2010

Mystery Mountain Marathon (MMM) features marathon and 12-mile trail races traversing difficult, sometimes technical but stunningly beautiful trails, with panoramic views of all foliage displayed on the surrounding mountains.

Climbing and descending for more than 15,000 feet of elevation change, runners will enjoy single track, rugged mountain bike, and smooth horse trails while running over and around Fort Mountain, passing the mysterious rock wall built at the top of the mountain over 1,000 years ago (hence the race name).

Fort Mountain State Park is in Chatsworth, Georgia, and is also near Ellijay, GA. The park is just 90 miles north of Atlanta; 50 miles south of Chattanooga, TN; 150 miles from Huntsville, AL; and just under 200 miles from Greenville, SC.

MMM is presented by GUTS (Georgia Ultrarunning & Trailrunning Society). Affectionately known by its followers as “M-cubed”, Mystery Mountain Marathon 2010 will take place on October 10 — hence: “M-cubed on 10-cubed”. This year marks the third annual MMM event. MMM was recently named a “Must-Do Atlanta Off-Road Running Event” by Competitor Magazine.More information can be found on our website: www.getguts.com

The race begins at 8:00 (both distances). Check-in is Saturday night, 10/9/10, at Cabin #15 in Fort Mountain State Park, from 5:00 to 7:00. Runners may also check-in beginning at 6:00 a.m. on race day.

The average weather for October in the region is high of 72, low of 48. All runners should be aware of changing weather; conditions can change quickly in the mountains, so runners should be prepared.

MMM was created by GUTS in 2008, and remains a GUTS race. This is the first year for the current race director, Kim Pike, but the creator and past RD, Janice Anderson, is still actively involved with the race, and most of the “race team” remains the same. Kim Pike has run several marathons and ultras, has crewed and paced for others in endurance events, has volunteered at many endurance events, and is active with GUTS.

The entry fees are as follows:

  • Marathon: $50 postmarked by September 1st; $65 thereafter
  • 12-Miler: $35 postmarked by September 1st; $50 thereafter
  • GUTS members ($15 membership fee) receive a $5 discount (for this and all other GUTS races)

Entrants will receive a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt from the event. Marathon finishers will also receive a finishers’ award (2010 finishers will receive a commemorative pint glass). Post-race food and beverage will be available for all runners.

Aid stations will feature water, sports drink, and a variety of sweet and salty food (including pb&j sandwiches). MoonPie, Larabar and Cascadia Farms are race sponsors and will provide food samples along the course and in race packets. Mix1 is also a sponsor, and will provide recovery beverages in runners’ packets and post-race.

The 2010 course will remain the same as the 2009 course. (Note when looking at race results that the 2009 course was longer than the 2008 route; a section was added in 2009 to make the race its current proper distance).

Many things make this race memorable:

  • The sheer beauty of the park and the trails tops the list, but the course itself is very challenging, and that is surely memorable.
  • Many if not most marathoners agree that this race runs more like a 50K than a marathon. In fact, in 2009 (with the longer, correctly measured course), only one runner broke 4 hours in the marathon (3:56), and only four broke 4:30. This is a challenging race, and ultrarunners in particular should be wary of viewing this as “just a marathon.”
  • There is one particular section that involves powerlines that few marathoners will easily forget . . .
  • There is also a very long, extended, and often steep downhill portion of the marathon (after the powerlines), which is often recalled for days by runners’ quads.
  • Many runners have spotted bears along the trails at Fort Mountain on training runs.
  • The “family gathering” atmosphere of GUTS races is something that our runners always mention as well. We also have experienced and enthusiastic volunteers — most of our volunteers are ultra runners, so the support mimics what you would see in an ultra.

Food and beverage will be served to all runners after the race. Typically, the post-race meal is soup or chili of some sort, and includes vegetarian fare. There is no pre-race meal.

The race has grown, and is expected to increase in size again this year (we had about 175 runners last year), but continues to have a limit of 250 runners. We have runners registered from more than 10 different states, including Montana, Texas, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, etc. Most of the runners come from the Southeast, and of course most are from Georgia.

The Atlanta airport is convenient to the race. Chattanooga, TN also has an airport that is very convenient.  There are several hotels in Chatsworth, GA, and some of these are listed on our race website. Ellijay, GA is also very close to the park. Fort Mountain State Park has cabins for rent, and offers camping as well. The race has reserved a group camping location within the park, and for $5.00 per tent, runners are welcome to stay at the race campsite (email the RD for details).

Supervised children can enjoy the park’s playgrounds, as well as the beach and lake (canoes and paddle boats are available for rental). Playgrounds and the lake/beach are adjacent to the start/finish of the race. There are also several shorter hiking trails that children may enjoy.

The race (both distances) begins and ends in the same location. Parking is ample, and costs $5.00 per car, self-pay.

There are two separate restroom facilities with running water adjacent to the start/finish. There is also an outdoor (cold) shower at the start/finish area.

There are no portapotties along the course. Nature provides many locations for on-course relief.

The MMM course is very hilly, so preparation on hills (ups and downs) is recommended.

There are no traffic issues. The entire race is run on trails. The trails are open to the public during the race, but this has never been an issue.

Advice to first-timers? Walk the hills, expect a slow time, and take time to enjoy the beauty of the course. And contrary to what it may seem, that hill around mile 22ish *does* eventually end.

There are 8 aid stations for the marathon and 4 for the 12-miler. Aid stations 3 and 8 provide fluids only and are unmanned. All other aid stations provide water, sports drink, and a variety of sweet and salty food. Larabar, MoonPie, and Cascadia Farms are sponsors and will have products at the aid stations as well as in runners’ race bags. Because the course is slow, the aid stations resemble those of a trail 50K more than those of a road marathon. Marathon runners are highly encouraged to carry a water bottle; the distances between aid stations 5 & 6 and 6 & 7, will take some runners over an hour. It can still be quite warm in early October.

The course is clearly marked. Details of course markings are on the race website. The 12-mile race will be marked using blue surveyors’ tape, and the marathon course (beginning where the 12-milers split away) will be marked with orange tape. There will also be directional signage, as well as volunteers directing runners at trickier intersections. All runners are of course expected to pay attention to course markings. There will be no mile markers. Your Garmin will not be entirely accurate in the woods.

There is no race expo, but many of our sponsors will have tables set up at the start/finish area on race day, so please stop by and say hello and thank you!

Budgeting items is difficult because runners come from various locations. But lodging can’t be beat — $5.00 buys you a tent space inside the park (email the RD for details). Please note that it costs $5.00 — self-pay — to park at Fort Mountain State Park, and each runner is responsible for paying for his/her own parking.

There are grocery stores in Chatsworth, which is just about 10-15 minutes away from the start of the race.  There will be water available at the start of the race.

Cell phone coverage is spotty at best. I usually cannot receive a signal at the start/finish area, but on occasion have received a signal at random times along the trail (short-lived, usually). Please do not count on cell phone coverage once you get up the mountain to the park. Make your calls in Chatworth before you start going up the mountain.

There will be an informal race photographer along the course.

An athlete who loves beautiful yet challenging trails, who enjoys taking advantage of our state parks, and who likes small races with a family-like atmosphere among runners and volunteers will love our race. While we do have many runners who use our “just-a-marathon” race as a training run for longer trail races in the Fall and Winter, we also have many talented and competitive runners who will be vying for the win. Runners should also note that proceeds from our race will be donated to specifically benefit Fort Mountain State Park.

One Response to “Mystery Mountain Marathon (MMM) 10/10/10”

  1. GS test demo says:

    Mystery Mountain Marathon (MMM) 10/10/10 | Endurance Racing Repor

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