The Internet-hyped alien meet-and-greet at Area 51 last summer turned out to be fake, but it sparked interest in several UFO-themed running events that, in turn, drew more attention to other mystery-monster running events. Some were held in bona fide locations where mythical creatures have been sighted (or at least reported), while others simply harnessed the enthusiasm. In Huntsville, Alabama, for example, UltraSignUp offered a series of Wild Thangs Trail Runs, with events entitled the Skunk Ape, Jackalope, Big Foot and Chpacabra. (Let the Googling begin).
Here’s a rundown of some of our favorites coming up in 2020, for those who want to derive some inspriation:
• LochNess360? Challenge: May 29-31, 2020
Participants will have three days to complete this new 80-mile ultramarathon around the perimeter of Loch Ness — the freshwater lake home of the fabled Loch Ness Monster sea creature — in Highland, Scotland. VisitScotland.com notes there have been more than 1,000 eyewitness accounts of “Nessie” sightings and unexplained evidence, but scientists still remain baffled. The route includes a 3,000-foot altitude change and is comprised of an off-road trail that consists of groomed paths, rough tracks and forest routes, according to runnersworld.com. As the website for the race cautions, “this is not a challenge for beginners.”
• Monster the Loch: September 26, 2020
Monster the Loch is the first mass participation boat race on Loch Ness. All human powered boat types are invited to participate in the 21-mile race, but as the weather (and maybe even the monster) can be unpredictable, the boats must be seaworthy. The loch is 21 miles long, one mile wide and well, nobody seems to be able to pinpoint how deep, so fortitude is a must. According to the website, in 2019, there were 52 boats that began the race, with crews ranging from self-built watercrafts to those crewed by international rowers and kayakers. The winning boat (helmed – no surprise – by Olympians and top university rowing athletes) clocked in with a time of just over two hours, and the last boat came back in seven hours and change.
?• Baxters Loch Ness Marathon: October 4, 2020
If an 80-mile ultramarathon is a bit too much, the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon offers a variety of events with a dramatic backdrop of Loch Ness. Options include a traditional marathon (voted one of the 10 best UK marathons by Runner’s World readers in 2016), as well as a 10K, a 5K and a kids run. According to the marathon’s website, the marathon “follows a spectacular point-to-point route alongside world-famous Loch Ness, starting in an atmospheric moorland setting and continues through stunning Highland scenery, taking you along the southeastern shores of Loch Ness, across the River Ness, to finish in Inverness, capital city of the Highlands.”
• Bigfoot Endurance Runs: August 7-11, 2020
A series of Bigfoot races explores the Cascade Mountains in Washington and (as the website proclaims) allows runners to “experience such varied terrain as the otherworldly volcanic Mount St. Helens (erupted in 1980), lava fields, long mountaintop ridge lines with stunning forest, mountain and lake views, deep old-growth forests as green and thick as a rainforest, misty mountaintops, and cross streams on their way to completing this massive life-changing event.” The anchor race is the Bigfoot 200, a 206.5-mile journey that includes a 42,000-foot ascent and six sleep stations with full aid, hot food, and medical and crew access. Other Bigfoot events include a 100K, a 40-miler and a 20-miler.
• Bigfoot 50K: December 14, 2019
Just as the Loch Ness Monster races comes in numerous sizes, so do Bigfoot races. The Bigfoot 40K, 20 & 10 Miler takes place on a permanently marked 10.4-mile loop course with rolling hills on hiking and horseback riding trails in Ohio’s Salt Fork State Park. “The course … is known for eating trail shoes,” warns the event’s website in what might be a subtle reference to its namesake. Race organizers also sponsor the Summer Sasquatch — a 50K, 20-mile and 10-mile trail race in the same state park. It will take place June 6, 2020.
• Sasquatch Marathon & Half Marathon: June 20, 2020
Are Bigfoot and Sasquatch the same? We’ll leave that for others to decide, but they each apparently are deserving of their own runs. The Sasquatch Marathon in Washington follows a point-to-point course running along the Iron Horse and Snoqualmie Valley trails and ending at Snoqualmie's Centennial Park. The first 20 miles is a gentle downhill dropping more than 1,200 feet in elevation, while the final 10k is completely flat. The course is USATF-certified and serves as a qualifier for the 2021 Boston Marathon, according to the event’s website. Organizers also sponsor a Sasquatch Half Marathon.
• Yeti Races
Further complicating the hairy-beast mythology is the Yeti, which is celebrated with four annual Yeti-centric events sponsored by the Atlanta-based Yeti Trail Runners organization. The Yeti 7/11 Hour Endurance Run will be held just outside of Atlanta on March 14, 2020, on a five-mile looped course consisting of a single track, a double track, hills and flat land. On June 6, 2020, the Dam Yeti 50 Miler and 50K will take place in Damascus, Va., at the Taylors Valley Trailhead of the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail. The Yeti Snakebite 50/50 and 11 Miler is slated for Sept. 13, 2020, at Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, Ga. (near Atlanta), and the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run will happen two weeks later at the Virginia Creeper Trail in Abingdon, Va., and feature 141 trestle crossings on trails covered with crushed limestone and cinders left over from passing trains.
While organizers of these races won’t guarantee monster sightings, they appear committed to keeping the legends alive by invoking their names and creating memorable running experiences for participants.