A Weekend with the Yetis

AJW's TaproomLast weekend, I traveled down to the beautiful southwest corner of Virginia to take in the Yeti 100 Mile. The brainchild of race director Jason Green, the Yeti 100 has, since its inception a few years ago, gained a cult following on the U.S.’s East Coast. Conducted each year on the last Friday in September, the Yeti 100 is run entirely on the 33.4-mile Virginia Creeper Trail, a smooth crushed-granite trail traversing one of Virginia’s most scenic regions.

Jason Green founded the Yeti Trail Runners in 2011 with the mission to build the trail running community in the Southeast. From the start, his focus has always been on the community. Green’s fun-loving, laid-back attitude and country charm have endeared him to the hardscrabble folks in this part of the country and, since he grew up here, he has a certain street cred, or should I say holler cred, that has allowed him to build a loyal volunteer base, engender tremendous local support, and motivate runners from outside the area to come in and join the tribe.

I checked in with Jason at the finish line this year, about 21 hours into the event. He was posted up in his camp chair, a location he would occupy consistently and without fail for approximately 28 hours, greeting and hugging every single finisher. For an hour or so, in between finishers, we chatted seamlessly about the race, the culture of the region, the trail, and the community that has been built around this simple, little, 33.4-mile corridor through the heart of Appalachia.

The Virginia Creeper Trail itself travels the right of way of a historic railroad line that for decades was used to haul timber and passengers between Virginia’s interior and its coast. The trail is an independent entity that crosses private land, land owned by the cities of Abingdon and Damascus, and multiple federal-land agencies–not exactly traditional bedfellows!

The historic Virginia Creeper rail line, once the life blood of the Virginia backcountry, stopped off at the stations of Damascus, Green Cove, Whitetop, and Alvarado. Today, at the Yeti 100, these former rail stations make up the race’s colorful and celebratory aid stations, places where Green’s vision of community comes out in full force.

When Green first envisioned the Yeti 100 a half decade ago, he recruited a few friends to run the course to see how it stacked up as a legitimate 100 miler. In 2014 and 2015, he essentially conducted a Yeti fat-ass event to determine where aid would be necessary based on how far his friends were able to run before they had to bail. From that, the Yeti 100 was born and in 2016 the first official race was held. In a few short years, it has become a large 100 miler and a great place for newbies to cut their teeth on the distance.

In the midst of all this, Green remains true to his mission. Certainly, he’s happy when fast people show up and compete for records and such, but that’s not his chief motivation. More than anything, Green is committed to building community in the true sense of the word. The simple goal of bringing people together with a shared purpose for a shared experience of doing something they love is easier said than done. And, having seen the race unfold last weekend, I can assure you that at the Yeti 100 this is happening. It is a sight to behold!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Wolf Hills Brewing Company in Abingdon, Virginia. Their Mostly Sunny New England IPA is one of their new offerings and a fresh take in the increasingly crowded hazy IPA space. Fruity with just a touch of bitterness, Mostly Sunny is a great beer to enjoy on a long, lazy, and warm fall afternoon.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you raced, paced, crewed, or spectated at the Yeti 100 Mile? If so, can you share your experiences with the event and its community?
  • And what do you think about the Virginia Creeper Trail as a recreation outlet and place of historical significance?

Trish Benoit runs across one of the historic railroad trestles on the Virginia Creeper Trail. Photo: Appalachian Exposures

The sign at mile 66.6 when headed up the climb that follows adds some extra motivation. Photo: Samantha Taylor

Mr.Inspiration can be found at all the Yeti races and he’s always right where you need a smile, hug, and a bit of inspiration. Photo: Appalachian Exposures

Sunset along the Yeti 100 Mile course. Photo: Nathan Dewey