The 2021 Big Turtle 50 Miler took place after being canceled for a year due to Covid-19.
The race, hosted by Next Opportunity Events, had three portions for beginner, intermediate and expert runners with a 10 mile, 50k and 50-mile option. Many aspects runners have become accustomed to, like pre-race gatherings, were cut to ensure the health of runners and volunteers.
“We normally have a meal and a pre-race gathering in the gym before the race. We had to cancel that. We usually have a post-race meal so we usually have food spread out here at the finish line, and we’re not doing that, so we had to cancel everything except the actual running of the race,” said Mike Whisman, who coordinates Next Opportunity Events with his wife, Brandy Whisman.
The size of the event was also changed, start times were staggered and masks were required before and after the race and at checkpoints.
“We’ve had to limit the field. We could technically have 500, 600 people at this race given how much parking we have,” said Whisman. “We had to limit the field to only 350 people and we had to drastically pare down our program.”
Whisman said the location of the Big Turtle Race was chosen in part due to the variety of terrain around Rowan County and on a stretch of the Sheltowee Trace trail that runs from Morehead State University’s campus to the northern end of the county.
“Once you get up on the hill behind campus, there’s a lot of running up on the ridge which stays pretty dry, it’s really rocky, has a lot of that limestone. It has a lot of loose rocks, a lot of roots up top but then when you come down off, to cross the road or whatever, it comes down into these little creek beds,” said Whisman. “You feel like you’re in a deep, dark forest and then you get up on the next hill and you don’t have much cover at all.”
The next race held by Next Opportunity Events will be the War Hammer 100 Mile Endurance Run on June 11 and 12 in Paris, Kentucky.