Grayson Highlands 50 Mile Race Report – Peggy Jennings

Race: Grayson Highlands 50 Miler

Runner: Peggy Jennings

Race Date: 05/06/2023

Location: Grayson Highlands, Virginia

Results: 14hr 34min

Strava Activity Link:

Photo: Bryan Jennings

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  • The course was marked very well.
  • Aid stations were great. We went roughly 5-6 miles between aid stations.
  • Great communication before race.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

5:30am start. If I had a choice, I would start at 6:30 or 7am.

Lots of creek beds we ran through. Just need to watch footing. It was OK but a little technical to run through but the challenge was good.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Email before the race was a little weird. The race director talked about the weather and that it could be really rainy and cold. I guess he was trying to gear anyone up (Ha, good punt there!) for it to be cold. The weather was predicted to be rainy and cold but we ended up have incredible weather. Unfortunately, many racers decided not to race due to his email.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I ate well and stay really hydrated. I think I got enough training hours in before the race. I had no issues with my feet or body. I took it slow, hiked when I needed which was a lot, but I just took my time and kept my goal in check which was the finish. I think the best decision was to bring poles. I saw so many runners using sticks as poles. There were many creek crossing so the poles came in handy. Be prepared to have your feet wet for 75% of this race. I will say the cold water felt amazing on my feet. I stood in the creek multiple times to give my feet some cryotherapy!

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

  • If you think you may use poles, do some training runners before your race.
  • DO NOT do anything new on race day.
  • EAT, DRINK, PEE, repeat.
  • If you think you may have issues with blisters, use vasoline or something similar to prevent blisters. I didn’t use anything. I stayed in the same shoes and socks for the entire race.
  • I did not upload the GPX to my watch. The course was marked really well and the racers I spoke to about it and that uploaded the maps on their watches said it was wrong.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

My rule of thumb is if the temps start with a 3, wear tights or capris. If it starts with a 4, wear shorts. Don’t overdress at the start. I did but luckily my amazing hubby met me at 5.5 mile water station and I changed into shorts. Think about how you will feel 20 minutes in the race. Study the course.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Stay alert. Just make sure you see course markings every .25 mile or so.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Beautiful course. Amazing views. The wild ponies were awesome to see.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

9500 ft of climbing and lots of rocky sections. It’s true trail race. But they give you a pretty generous cutoff. 17.5 hours.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Very well organized and all the volunteers were super great.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

No clue and I didn’t do this to win. This was my first 50 miler so my focus was to stay healthy and to finish strong.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

  • No, you don’t need to find a book and pull out a page to bring to the aid station. Ha!
  • Registration did not fill up but if you wanted to drop from 50m to 50k, you may not be able to because they have a certain number of permits so you may not be able to. Just need to ask.
  • We stayed at an Air B&B that was 20 minutes from the start for $98 a night. Old cottage but very comfortable.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Nope. All aid stations had quesadillas which hit the spot for me, and with bacon!!!

All the volunteers were great and very helpful. Luckily, I had my hubby and kids out there for me but you could do this race unsupported, as long as you are a somewhat experienced ultrarunner.

Weather and typical race conditions

Weather was amazing. Mother Nature truly gave us the best weather. I heard last year it was rainy, cold, and windy. No bueno. Prepare for lots of creek crossing and for your feet to get wet.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Hiking poles were a race saver for me.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?


How’s the Swag?

Nice, simple, and usable pieces. We got a t-shirt and a winter hat. Both I will use.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 out of 5.

Photo: Looking Glass Designs