(Originally written by Randy Albrecht in 1998,
revised & updated by Eric Steele in 2006.)

The Flat Rock 50K Trail Run is an out and back course run on the Elk River Hiking Trail. While it is hard to imagine a trail run in Kansas as being difficult, this race will definitely challenge your running ability and put your skills of mental concentration to the test. How tough of a race is Flat Rock? To answer that question we reviewed all 50K race results listed in UltraRunning magazine from October 1997 to September 1998. To eliminate very small events, which may not have a quality field, the study only included races that had at least 20 finishers. Based on either the winners’ times or an average of the top three finishers, Flat Rock ranked as the fourth toughest 50K out of the 85 races included in the survey. Only Silver State, Baldy Peaks, and the Western Washington Fat Ass 50K were tougher.

A reasonable argument could be waged that Flat Rock has not had as deep of a field of good runners as other races and is really not that tough. While the race has not attracted as many well-known runners from the east or west coast, several very good runners have taken on “the Rock.” Amazingly, only six runners since the inception of this event in 1995 have broken five hours on this course, which is only 1.7 percent of all 345 finishers since the first running in ’95. One of these five is 2004 Grand Slam Finisher, Paul Schoenlaub, who managed to break five hours in ’03 by just a little over 2.5 minutes.

What makes the Flat Rock trail so tough? Extreme concentration is required when running Flat Rock, as you will take very few steps where there will not be some potential obstacle. Most of these will be in the form of rocks. You will very quickly learn why the race motto here at “the Rock” is “If you look up…you are going down!” Buyer beware please. While the trail does not have any long hills, there is an estimated total elevation gain and loss of approximately 3,000 feet for the 50K. Most of these hills are very steep and rocky and are not runable, unless you can run trails like a mountain goat, due to the treacherous footing. So, please remember to take your time and enjoy the scenary safely…while stopped, or moving slowly and cautiously.

Temperatures in late September in Kansas can vary widely. Heat will more likely be a factor than cold and even though it is always windy in Kansas, you will very seldom feel the breeze on the trail due to the trees. You are encouraged to carry a water bottle during the event and take time to properly hydrate/fuel at the aid stations. Most years only a few leaves are left on the trail by race day, however in some sections, they may conceal the dreaded rocks. Should it ever rain on race day, sections of the trail will be extremely slick, especially those covered with rocks, leaves, and the other water crossings.

The trail is very well marked with blue blazes on the trees and a few rocks. If you go more than 50-70 paces without seeing a blaze then you have very likely wandered off the trail and simply need to retrace your steps back to where you find blue markings on the trees/rocks. The course is accurately measured and will take you through the “Chautauqua Hills” of southeast Kansas. You will run through unique limestone rock formations, picturesque vistas, and dense hardwood forests as well as a bit of the prairie. While this is not an easy trail race, it is an extremely beautiful and rewarding one. Most importantly, it has been the gateway for many midwestern runners into the sport of ultrarunning/extreme foot races.

Army Corps of Engineers Trail Instuctions

Army Corps of Engineers Trail Map

A Testimonial From Mari Mohr
Eric, I just want to say thanks for all of the hard work getting ready for and putting on a great run! It was beautiful and I had a great time in spite of the ankle twist. I have already contacted my pikes peak buddies and they are headed your way next year!

Mari Mohr--Kansas


Website Last Updated On: 10/19/12
All Rights Reserved.

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