kismet cliff run race reportRace: Kismet Cliff Run – Trail Half Marathon

Runner: Brian E

Race Date: 09/23/2018

Location: Echo Lake State Park – North Conway, New Hampshire

Results: 3:20:25

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/1861024537/overview

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

  1. Stunning views
  2. Small event with really fun people
  3. It is really, really technical terrain

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

  1. The conga line at the start of the climb
  2. Underestimating the difficulty of this thing

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

Nothing in particular.

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

My power hiking and technical running were on point! This might sound weird but here goes. I wanted to feel what running to the point of near failure is like and I got it. My legs started cramping at mile 8 and by the time I was within one mile I was on the verge of puking and/or passing out. There was nothing left in the tank at the finish line.

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

There is a two-mile flat trail run to the first hill climb so try to get out ahead of the crowd to avoid the bottleneck on the single track ascent.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I’ll be hustling to the first climb and passing people more aggressively. I will be fully hydrated prior to the start. Those two factors probably cost me 20 minutes.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The back side of the big climb is a treacherous mix of smooth, steep and wet rock leading to a barely runnable (but you will) minefield of roots, rocks, and drops. It’s fast, thrilling and terrifying all at once.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The start/finish is an amazing sight, a beautiful little lake with cliffs behind it. There are a few spots along the course which open up to reveal the White Mountains.

kismet cliff trail run

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Yup. 4200′ of elevation gain and loss. Probably 2500′ of that is fairly technical climbing and a mile of technical, barely runnable descent.

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

It is well oiled machine and run by a really fun running club working to benefit a local charity.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

I finished in the top third, give or take, and there were about 6 of us who were battling over the last 5 miles. So there was definitely good-natured competition and fun. The winners finished at 2:10 – 2:15 which is unimaginable to me!

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.

There were still spots available in the days leading up to the race. I believe there is no day race of sign-ups.

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

I didn’t stop at the 2 mile aid station (mainly for the 5 milers). The 4 mile offered water, some candy, and bars. The station at 10 miles is literally in the middle of nowhere and offers only water. How they got 60 gallons of water out there is beyond me!

Weather and typical race conditions

Temps were in the high 50s with low humidity this year with beautiful blue skies. I heard horror stories of high 80s temps and humidity last year. It’s New England, ya never know.

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

Not really but I did bring a light jacket, hat, and gloves just in case. Next year I will use poles for part of the climb and descent.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Not really. There is very limited parking at the start/finish area in the park. People did hike in about a mile to cheer which was exactly what I needed.

How’s the Swag?

A sweet pint glass and hat. It’s a $35 race so I didn’t expect any swag, this was a nice surprise.

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

I’m giving this a 5 out of 5. The organizers claim it’s the toughest half marathon anywhere and, while I have nothing to compare it to, I believe it. It feels like a fun adventure with your friends but with aid stations. Everyone I talked to afterward had a blast and I will be back next year with a goal of sub-3 hours!