Trail Running March Madness

March Madness isn’t just for basketball, trail running has it too!

By on February 25, 2022 | Leave a reply

AJW's TaproomUp here in the Northern Hemisphere, when the calendar flips from February to March, those of us who’ve been hunkered down for the winter tend to get a little antsy. In our restless state, many of us look for a race to run. As a result, here on the North American trail running and ultrarunning calendar, there are dozens of great races, large and small, that help us to shake off a little rust, re-engage with the community, and dream of longer adventures on the trails in the coming months. It is our sport’s version of NCAA basketball’s March Madness.

This year, as we are still emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, the antsiness in the community seems a bit more acute, and the desire to stretch the legs on the trails is stronger than usual. That said, I’d like to present four March Madness races: one on each weekend of the month, at various locations across the United States, all close to my heart, and that provide a good early spring challenge to all trail runners and ultrarunners, beginners and veterans alike.

2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile - Ashley Nordell

What’s not to enjoy about a spring day running above Lake Sonoma in California? Here’s Ashley Nordell finishing the 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

March 5Ozark Highlands Endurance Run – This 50k, held on one of the most rugged trails in the Ozarks of Arkansas, is an early-season quad burner put on by the same folks who direct the Three Days of Syllamo. For anyone eying a late (or early) season 100-mile race in the U.S. Southeast, this is a fantastic first step.

March 12Marin Ultra Challenge – Held on the legendary trails of the Marin Headlands in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, this relatively new race has quickly become a star on the March race calendar. With plenty of ups and downs and some of the most incredible Pacific Ocean views of any race, this event deserves a spot on anyone’s March Madness bucket list.

March 19HAT Trail Run 50k – One of the longest-running ultras on the U.S. East Coast, this Maryland classic is an annual reunion of the mid-Atlantic ultrarunning community. Known for technical trails and fresh french fries at mile 25 — they actually bring out a half a dozen friers and the aid station smells like McDonalds — this is one not to be missed.

March 26Crown King Scramble – About 60 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona, sits the small mining town of Crown King. Every year on the last weekend in March, the Crown King Scramble 50k finishes right in town. A longtime staple of the Arizona running calendar, Crown King is perfect for the climbing specialist, as it starts around 1,000 feet and finishes over 6,500 feet. This is a great race to prime those climbing legs for later in the season.

There are, of course, many more March Madness races to choose from. This year, as we continue to slowly open up our race calendars and the world, here’s to all of us getting out there and heeding the call of springtime.

Bottoms up!

Running through the woods in springtime. Photo: Yash Holbrook

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Don't Be Too Hasty IPA - AJW TaproomThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Sapwood Cellars Brewery in Columbia, Maryland. Known for a wide selection of uniquely flavored beers, my favorite Sapwood beer is Don’t Be Too Hasty, a passion fruit sour IPA that is bitter and tropical at the same time. For the adventurous beer drinker, Don’t Be Too Hasty is a fantastic choice.

Call for Comments

  • What are your favorite March Madness trail races and ultramarathons?
  • Do you consider an early March race an early or late season race for your calendar?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.