Destinations, Training & Racing

Join Me for Summer Fun at the Skyline 50K

5 Comments Posted by: Sarah Lavender Smith, June 1, 2011

All smiles running last year's Skyline 50K.

(Update for 2012: This year’s event is Sunday, August 12. I wrote this post in early summer 2011 and ended up not running the event last year due to injury. I’m looking forward to running it again this year.)

We’re into June—say what?!—which means the Skyline 50K is only a couple of months away. This is one of my all-time favorite trail events, as it loops through woodlands and over ridgetops of two superlative regional parks in the Oakland Hills: Anthony Chabot and Redwood. If you’re looking for a special race to train for this summer and want one more reason to spend time in awesome Oakland, then look no further. Sign up now.

Celebrating its 30th year, the event is one of the oldest continuously run 50Ks in the country. As such, it exudes an old-school ultrarunning spirit and tradition carried on by dozens of longtime Bay Area trail runners who come together in their version of a summertime block party.

Skyline 50K RD Adam Ray on a run, gritting his teeth and smiling.

The host of the party is race director Adam Ray, whom I’d say is a pretty decent guy. He’s someone who has a lot of dirt on me, since he’s known me since high school (really) and I wouldn’t have started running without his inspiration back in 1994 (it’s true), so I could be accused of talking up this event only because it’s put on by one of my best friends.

But Adam didn’t need to threaten blackmail to get me to sign up for his race and exhort others to, too. I eagerly put it on my 2011 calendar since I had a great time there last year and set a 50K PR (4:46).

I should have published this post a few months ago in order to give rookies plenty of time to train for it, because it is an ideal course for a first 50K—challenging but manageable, with about 4750 feet total elevation gain/loss; moderate terrain, with much of the course on wide fire roads; frequent and well-stocked aid stations, with a nice showing of crowd support; and, best of all, a bounteous barbecue at the finish line along the shores of Lake Chabot.

With 9 weeks still remaining, however, I bet that anyone who can manage a two-and-a-half-hour training run has adequate time to train and taper between now and August. The course has a generous 8-hour limit, which means you can hike much of the way and still finish in time.

Friends and family along the course help make it a rookie-friendly event. As Adam says, “It’s very easy for folks to come root you on at the aid stations. That means wherever you are, and no matter how sorry for yourself you might feel, a friend may be waiting to cheer you on.”

Plus, he adds, the picnic area at the finish line is wide open and welcoming to anyone who wants to tie on the feedbag. “Every year, we expect to feed many more people than the runners, and seeing families spread out across the lawn at Lake Chabot is one of the great joys of race directing.”

Last year, some members of Team In Training (including the two shown here at the finish line) ran the Skyline 50K as their first ultra.

Adam takes a local’s pride in witnessing the East Bay produce talented ultrarunners, many of whom train on the Skyline 50K course. “Many great ultrarunning careers have started at Skyline because the East Bay is a great place to run on trails,” he says. “There’s always been a very strong and somewhat more quiet ultrarunning community here, but I think the quality of the local athletes comes out when you see the names who’ve run their first here”—folks like Graham Cooper. “There’s very solid word of mouth locally, and it’s commonly the case on any given Sunday that you can see great runners out on these trails. And great ultrarunners beget great ultrarunners. It’s a very encouraging environment.”

The Skyline 50K attracts numerous top Bay Area trail runners who clock sub-4-hour times, including these guys (L-R): Victor Ballesteros, Chikara Omine and Jean Pommier (photo courtesy Jean Pommier's blog).

So check out the course details and come join us on August 7. For more info and great photos, I recommend these two race reports: Jean Pommier (a frontrunner’s perspective) and John Nguyen (a midpack perspective).

If you’re planning to run it, I encourage you to write a comment below to let others know you’re in!

Your Comments

5 Comments so far

  1. I’m registered for the 2011 Skyline 50K! I currently live in Tucson, AZ and train on very rocky, steep trails in the desert southwest. However, I used to live in the bay area and did many training runs on this course but never had the opportunity to enter the race. Looking forward to getting back on the trail and seeing how I fair on different terrain!

  2. Jeffery says:

    You never forget your first ultra, and Skyline has always held fond memories for me. If I don’t run, I try to volunteer – and that goes for a lot of the East Bay running crowd, from the local schmoe and schmoette to Ann Trason and Carl Andersen. A friendlier 50k cannot be found.

    Thanks for the write-up, Sarah. Reminds me I have to contact Adam and ask where he needs me to help.


  3. Jean Pommier says:

    Thanks for promoting this great 50K race, Sarah. Count me in, that will by my #5! See you there then and a big thank in advance to Adam and the volunteers for setting this event up.

  4. Kyria says:

    Sarah, I just met you at Ohlone yesterday. I was volunteering at Maggies. I saw Jean (#1 runner) wiz by and met Dennis, who has pretty much convinced me to run (my first ultra) the Skyline 50k. I can’t wait!

  5. Kate says:

    I’m running Skyline this weekend as my first 50K. So excited, hope to see you out there!

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