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The Race

The 70.5 mile race traverses the entire length of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in southwestern Pennsylvania, point-to-point beginning in Ohiopyle, PA and ending in Seward, PA. It is a combination of beautiful scenery and challenging terrain. Please plan to join us on the second Saturday in June as the tradition continues on this pristine trail. 

*The Website is in the midst of an overhaul. Thank you for your patience. More info will be added soon. 

Race Rules

Violations of the following rules could result in a racer’s disqualification. The list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but instead, is designed to inform racers of some of the rules specific to this race.

  1. Runners must check-in prior to the start of the race and at each Aid Station and the finish line. Racers must verify their finish time at the finish line following completion of the race.

  2. Race numbers must be visible on the front of the runner at all times during the race.

  3. Racers are not permitted to obtain any outside locomotive assistance. If a racer leaves the trail, they must return to the trail by their own power at the point where they ran off the course and complete the race.

  4. If a racer is unable to complete the race, they must personally check-out at one of the Aid Stations. Racers not completing the race should sign their race number and give it to the AS  captain.

  5. Pacers are not permitted for relay runners.

  6. (PENDING COVID 2021 Mitigation efforts) Pacers are permitted for 70-mile racers beginning at the Route 30 checkpoint (mile 46). Pacers may not provide any assistance to the runners. That is, no carrying of water or food or other assistance. Pacers must run behind the runner. Pacers should provide for their own race needs. The race entrant is responsible for the conduct and actions of their pacer and the race is not responsible and does not provide assistance to any pacer. Racers are limited to one pacer at a time and may not use pacers under the age of 18. There are no exceptions to these rules.

  7. Parking for crew must be in designated areas only.

  8. Trekking poles are allowed. However, trekking poles must fit fully  within a drop bag, or given to crew when not in use.

  9. No littering.

  10. Have fun.

aid stations

Aid Stations

There will be fully stocked aid stations at the following locations:

These are the only aid stations, please review and plan accordingly. All runners should carry a minimum of two water bottles with them at all times.

  • Aid Station 1, Mile 11.6 (Maple Summit/Jersey Hollow Rd)

  • Aid Station 2, Mile 19.3 (Route 653)

  • Aid Station 3, Mile 26 (Seven Springs Resort area)

  • Aid Station 4, Mile 32.3 (Route 31)

  • Aid Station 5, Mile 39.1 (Lynn Run Railroad Grade)

  • Aid Station 6, Mile 46.4 (Route 30) BAG DROP

  • Aid Station 7, Mile 57.1 (Route 271) BAG DROP

  • Aid Station 8, Mile 62 (Gas Line dirt road) NO CREW/SPECTATOR ACCESS

While a crew is not required, each runner should plan on carrying food and fluids between each aid station.

course

The Course

A 70.5 mile wilderness trail, traversing state parks, state forests, state gamelands, and other public and private lands. This is a very scenic and challenging course. Difficult footing is the norm, as steep grades, logs, rocks, steps, mud and other obstacles abound. The trail is maintained by the state and features concrete markers at every mile. This is a feature of which few ultra races can boast. The entire course is permanently marked with yellow blazes, which makes getting lost difficult. The majority of the trail is rugged single-track, with some meadow crossings in the Seven Springs Resort area. 

Here is a Google Map of the course.

Drop Bags

Drop Bags: Runners are permitted to leave drop bags for Aid Station 6 (Mile 46) and Aid Station 7 (Mile 57) and the finish. Drop bags will be collected at the pre-race dinner, at check-in and near the start line. If you plan on leaving a drop bag, please have your race number, your name and the Aid Station where the bag is to be delivered clearly visible on the outside of the bag. Do not put items in your drop bag that require special handling. No fragile items, or items that require ice or refrigeration. Also, remember to have a reliable flashlight with spare batteries with you, or have one in your drop bag at one of the two Aid Stations (mile 46.4 or mile 57.1). Flashlights will be needed by all but the frontrunners. Plan on having a flashlight available no later than 8:30 P.M. If you think that you may be between aid stations at that time, leave a flashlight at the earlier aid station.

The Reward

Upon successful completion of the course under the twenty-two (22) hour time limit, each runner will receive a handsome trophy. The winning team members in each division will also receive awards.

Current Course Records for the 70.5 mile course

  • MEN: Courtney Campbell: 10:43:34 1998

  • WOMEN: Leah Yingling: 13:17:48 2019

  • NON-BINARY: TBD

  • MEN'S RELAY: Los Quatro Diablo y un Bandido: 8:37:53 2002

  • WOMEN'S RELAY: A.T.A.K.S.: 11:27:32 2014

  • MIXED RELAY: Vertical Runner: 9:52:30 2012

Current Course Records for the 77 mile course

  • MEN: Derek Schultz: 13:17:20 2011

  • WOMEN: Debbie Livingston: 16:27:33 2011

  • MEN'S RELAY: St. Vincent college Cross Country: 10:23:07 2011

  • WOMEN'S RELAY: (tie)Bearcat Crush, Eat our Dust: 16:45:53 2010

  • MIXED RELAY: Vertical Runner: 11:21:52 2010

resultrs

70M Results & Photos

70M Pre-Race

We will have a  pre-race dinner on Friday, June 7th, 2024, beginning at 5:30 P.M, with packet pickup starting at 4PM. The dinner is free for all registered individual and team runners.The pre-race dinner and meeting will be held at the Ice Pond in Ligonier. Volunteers will be on hand to check-in runners, brief runners on the course and answer questions regarding the race. We will distribute race numbers and shirts at the dinner. The pre-race briefing and dinner usually wraps up by 7:00 p.m, Please plan accordingly.

We will also be collecting drop bags at the dinner. Drop bags will be allowed for all Aid Stations and Finish. Remember that thunderstorms with cold, drenching rain are common in the area at this time of year. Plan on dressing accordingly, or have the appropriate clothing in your drop bags. Also, all but the front runners will be running in the dark. Please be prepared, have a usable flashlight with extra batteries available after 8:30 P.M. Drop bags will also be collected at the start on race morning.

Race morning registration will begin at 4:30 A.M. in Ohiopyle, PA. The race itself begins at 5:30 A.M. Parking will be located in the Ferncliff Natural Area parking lot https://goo.gl/maps/ML2arh69UMrGedhN7 . Packet pick-up, runner check-in and drop bag collection will take place at this time. The Start Line will be located in the Falls Lot on the other side of the bridge. 

There will be a bus available on race morning to take runners to the start. The bus will leave the finish area (Rt 56) promptly at 3:30 a.m. Runners who wish to take the bus should select this option at the time of registration. This is the only bus service that we provide. Runners that require a ride back to the start area will have to make their own arrangements. Also, if you drive to the start, you will have to make arrangements to get your car to the finish. There is no overnight parking permitted in the parking lot at the start. If you leave your car at the finish, please do not park in the few spaces where the trail exits the woods, as the race directors will need this area to set up the timing equipment and food tents.

We will most likely offer camping on Friday night once again at the Ice Pond with a shuttle to the start as well. 

crew

Crew & Pacers

Crews are responsible for their own food and drink. Please do not litter. As is true with most trail races, our ability to continue this race depends on the conduct of the runners and crews. We are given permission each year for the use of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. With more participants each year, we need everyones help to avoid parking, driving and littering infractions. Crew infractions may be attributed to your runner and result in disqualification.
Race management is not responsible for lost crews.

Pacers are required to inform the checkpoint captain if they are going to accompany a runner. Pacers are subject to the same rules as runners and crew. Pacers, please stay behind your runner and carry only your own food and drink. Pacers are not allowed to carry food, water or supplies for the runner ("no muling"). Pacers are also not allowed to help propel their runner along. At night, make sure you and your pacer have reliable flashlights with extra batteries.

Here is a Google Map of the course.

We hope that you enjoy your experience on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

70m relay

70M Relay

Not ready to tackle the entire race by yourself? How about entering a team in the relay event? The relay consists of teams comprised of up to five (5) runners. Each of the team members will run one leg of the race. The legs are of varied distances. There are 4 relay exchange point on the course. (4). The exchange points are at various Aid Stations.  Their locations and the relay leg distances are listed in the chart below. Each team member will run one or more of the legs. A team can be made up of less than five runners, but then one of the members will have to run multiple legs. An individual runner can be on a team, however, that runner will have to run the first leg of the relay, and then continue on as a solo entrant after the first leg of the relay. If a solo runner is also part of a team, the team entry fee will be reduced by sixty ($60.00) dollars, provided that the solo runner has sent in his/her entry fee. Please submit your team entries together.


The deadline for Team Relay entries is May 25th, 2024. There will be no Team Relay entries accepted after that date. There will be no race day entry for teams.

Entering a team in the relay race is a great way to get a taste of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail without committing to the entire distance. Each year we receive many positive comments from team members. They all seem to enjoy the day running on our beautiful trail with a few of their friends. There are a few extra rules that the teams must abide by:

 

  • Teams can be comprised of less than five (5) runners but must have at least two (2) members.

  • Each team member must complete an application and sign the waiver.

  • The team captain should mail all of the applications together along with the required team entry fee.

  • All team members must be 18 years of age on or before the race date.

  • Each team is responsible for the transportation of the team members throughout the race. Race management can not transport team members to the various checkpoints.

History

70M History

The following is a brief history of the Laurel Highlands Ultra. Much of this history was printed by Mel Cowgill after the 1999 race. It also appears in the race recap for that year. Thank-you Mel, for providing this information.

The Laurel Highlands Ultra began as the "ultra challenge" in the late 1970's when brothers Joe and Paul Butchko discovered the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The trail had just been completed by the State of Pennsylvania as a permanently marked hiking trail along the Laurel Ridge in the Southwestern corner of the state. The two brothers began running sections of the trail and soon decided to try and run the entire length in one day. So they invited a few friends to join them and the race was born.

That first attempt proved a true challenge, as none of the runners made it past fifty-seven miles that day. The first official run was held the following year (1980) with seven starters. Four of the runners made it to the finish line in Seward. Joe Butchko was one of those finishers. His brother Paul served as the official timer, and has remained as the race timer to this day. The race began at the southern terminus of the trail, running north for seventy miles. Each mile is permanently marked with small concrete monuments. The first two editions of the race, 1980 and 1981, were seventy miles long. In 1982 the starting line was moved back, next to the falls in Ohiopyle State Park, thus adding the extra mileage that now makes the course 70.5 miles long. Although, as many runners will attest, the final mile in Seward seems short.

The Laurel Highlands Ultra has many unique features. It is one of the few point-to-point trail races in existence. During its first twenty years, this feature also made it one the toughest races, as each runner was responsible for his/her own aid along the course. It was quite a scene to see a runners crew moving between road crossing so that their runner would be well supplied with food and fluids. The more adventurous of the crews were able to locate unmarked or well hidden roads that allowed them to access their runners at more points along the course.

In the year 2000, for the twenty first running of the race, Tim and Loreen Hewitt took over the duties of race directors, adding many changes to the race. The cut-off time was increased from eighteen hours to twenty-two hours. Aid stations were added at the timing checkpoints and at a few other access areas. A team relay was also added to give runners a taste of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail without a full committment. These changes proved very positive to the race, as the number of entries increased. The finishers rate also improved dramatically due to the changes.

As we entered our fourth decade of racing a new challenge presented itself as the bridge that carried the trail over the PA Turnpike was closed by the DCNR due to structural defects. Not wanting to change the spririt of a point-to-point race, it was decided that a detour would be put in place. The detour routed runners onto gravels roads in order to safely cross the Turnpike, before rejoining the trail on the Northern side of the road. The detour was approximately eight (8) miles, and cut about two (2) miles out of the actual trail, resulting in a net gain of six (6) miles. As a result of the added mileage, the time limit for the race was increased to twenty-four (24) hours.

In late January of 2012 the new bridge over the PA Turnpike was officially opened to the public. This news meant that the race returned to its traditional 70.5 format with a time limit of twenty-two hours. The return to the 70.5 format insures that the 77 mile record holders will stay intact, at least until the bridge has to be re-built sometime in the distant future.

A new women's course record was established in 2012. Debbie Livingston surpassed the record set by Alice Thurau twenty-two years earlier, by almost twelve minutes. This was the longest standing course record for the LHU. Debbie now holds the women's course record for both the traditional course and the long course. The race set another record in 2012. There were 123 starters and 85 finishers in the 70.5 mile race, the most ever.

The women's course record was lowered again in 2016 by Robin Watkins. With a time of 13:23:21, eleven minutes were shaved off the record set just four years earlier. Robin, along with her husband Adam became the first husband and wife winners in their respective divisions. The number of starters again increased, to 137. However, the finishers rate fell to 62.8% as only 86 runners reached the finish line under the twnety-two hour time limit.

For the second year in a row, a new women's course record was established as Sarah Schubert won in 2017 with a time of 13:18:58, a little over four minutes than last year's record. We also saw over one hundred finishers for only the second time, as the weather was much more cooperative than the previous few years'.

2019 was an excellent year for those attempting a personal record on the course. The weather stayed cool for most of the day with lower humidity than usual and only a brief period of rain. The women's course record was broken again, this time by Leah Yingling, finishing in 13:17:48.

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