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2024 Laurel Highlands Ultra - Trail Race Blog Series

Map of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

SAT, JUNE 8, 2024

This Saturday, runners will head out into the woods of Western Pennsylvania and embark on a historic trail race taking place for its 45th year - the Laurel Highlands Ultra. This race includes a 70.5 mile individual race and 70.5 mile team relay, along with a 50k individual and team relay race that will take place for its 19th year. Follow along with us as we talk about some of the toughest races the US has to offer in this multi-blog post series. 

The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a 70 mile long trail that is part of Laurel Ridge State Park, and stretches along Laurel Mountain from the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle State Park to the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown. The trail has many beautiful sights of the Pennsylvania wilderness and is home to many different species of wildlife that can be seen all year round. 

Though incredibly beautiful, the trail really pushes runners to their limits. The Laurel Highlands Ultra is known for being a particularly tough race; it's a rocky singletrack trail that keeps you looking at your feet instead of the scenery, otherwise you may easily trip. It’s also notorious for being a more rugged style race, with aid stations being spaced further apart than is typical for a race like this, so runners need to be prepared for that. On top of that, the percentage of runners that finish the race is usually around the mid-sixties, which let’s people know that this race is not for the weak. It’s a tough one, and the organizers like it that way. 

This race is also unique for another reason: it’s one of the few ultra races on the east coast that is used as a qualifying race for the Western States 100 (which we will be talking about in another upcoming blog post), one of the toughest ultra races in the world. Athletes from all over show up to the Laurel Highlands region annually in an attempt to finish this race, but only some will be successful. 

Gingerbread Man Running Company is very proud to share that one of our very own employees, John from our Shadyside location, is making an attempt this year. He’s an incredible distance runner and we’re super pumped to see how he does. There’s a few other friends of the store running today as well, and we couldn’t be more proud to support them on their journey!

In addition to having an incredibly strong appreciation for the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and the natural beauty that surrounds it, the race also makes sure to give back to the land. Annually, race proceeds are donated to the Laurel Highlands Trail through the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation, and are made in the name of Paul Butchko - one of the original founders of the race, who sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2017. 

Tough races like this require gear that can stand up to the challenge. This summer, we have some exciting new releases in the world of trail shoes - the Speedgoat 6 from Hoka is one that we are particularly excited about, coming soon! We have many different styles of road and trail shoes, and our knowledgeable staff is more than happy to help you find the perfect shoes to tackle your toughest races. We strive to provide high quality gear that only enhances your performance, not hinders it. 

If you’re a runner in the Western PA area looking for a race to really challenge yourself, give the Laurel Highlands Ultra some consideration. It’s tough, but think of how great you’ll feel once it’s over?

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