Under the Radar Races: Many on the Genny

AJW profiles the Many of the Genny 45-mile ultra in New York state, in the first part of a new series celebrating under the radar races.

By on January 12, 2024 | Comments

AJW's Taproom[Author’s Note: This article is the first in an 11-part series in AJW’s Taproom celebrating under the radar races.]

Each July, Letchworth State Park in Western New York state is home to the Many on the Genny, a 45-mile trail race that traverses the park and runs along both sides of the gorge created by the raging Genesee River.

Letchworth State Park itself is a beloved park. Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” it encompasses 17 miles of the Genesee River and was named America’s best state park in the 2015 “USA Today” Readers’ Choice Awards.

The brainchild of race directors Eric and Sheila Eagan, Many on the Genny is billed as:

“A 45-ish-mile trail ultra using both sides of the famous gorge in Letchworth State Park. With 90% of the course off roads, you will traverse singletrack, fields, foot bridges, and bridle paths. You will experience beautiful vistas, quad busting climbs, and most importantly a grassroots, community friendly event. In the style of old school ultras, this race comes with a need for self-sufficient runners.”

Many on the Genny - course

Runners out on the Many on the Genny course. Photo: Ron Heerkens Jr

Locally owned and operated by the nonprofit TrailsRoc organization, all proceeds from Many on the Genny are donated back to the park to support trail building and maintenance. In addition, Eric and Sheila cap the race at 150 runners and do not allow pacers as they strive to minimize the impact of the event on the park trails. Finally, the entire event is completely staffed by unpaid volunteers from the local community. It is a tried-and-true grassroots event.

The Eagans grew up going to the park, and after a cross-country trip they had planned was unexpectedly canceled, they decided to spend a week hiking and running every inch of the park. They invited members of the local trail community to join them for morning and evening outings and were amazed that people came to join them every day.

By the end of the week, Sheila exclaimed, “Ya’ know, there really should be an event that can showcase what we just saw, the hidden trails, the secret waterfalls, the top of the gorge to the bottom of the canyon, all of it.”

And with that, they went home, taped together a map of the sections, and Many on the Genny was born.

Eric notes that, like any event, Many on the Genny is not without its challenges. There are remote sections of the park that often need significant trail work before the event, as the gorge ferns grow like a rain forest in the summer and overtake the trail.

There is also a dam for flood control, and there are times when the dam is closed, and parts of the course are submerged underwater. Finally, there is also little to no cell phone coverage, and in some places the park police radios do not even work, so the organizers and park officials need to work together as a group to care and watch out for each other.

I asked Eric what he most looks forward to on race day, and he shared with me the event’s most unique tradition:

“We ask that all of the runners write thank you notes for each of the five aid stations. The highlight of the day for us is as each aid station closes down, they gather all of the notes, they sit together, and they read the notes out loud. People cry, people laugh, people smile. Runners will share how they overcame obstacles, how they quit drinking, how they had a goal to make it to each aid station to give thanks. New moms have shared baby stories, people have written poems, and even performed for our aid stations. It is a moving part of the event that we think is special and unique to us, and really drives home what this whole sport is about.”

Many on the Genny - aid station

A volunteer greets a runner at one of Many on the Genny’s fantastic aid stations. Photo: Ron Heerkens Jr

Finally, looking ahead to the July 21, 2024, event, Eric notes that there are still a few coveted spots available in this year’s race and registration is still open for those who want to experience this truly unique and special event “under the radar.”

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Genesee Brewing Company logoThis week’s beer of the week comes from Genesee Brewing Company in Rochester, New York. One of the country’s oldest breweries, Genesee introduced Genesee Black Lager in 2018 and it is outstanding. Brewed in the classic European style of black lagers, Black is a bold, full-flavored lager with a crisp, refreshing finish.

Call for Comments

  • Have you raced Many on the Genny?
  • If so, tell us about your experience in the comments section!
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.