The XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Runs is truly a race for anyone. It is open to runners of all ages and skill levels, and it offers a choice of four different courses - a 42-kilometer full-marathon course, a 20K, a 10K and a 5K.
This year's XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Runs is set for May 19, and it will once again take place on the award-winning trails at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama.
Brandon Mader, an elite runner from Huntsville, Alabama, said he always tries to enter the race at Oak Mountain because each year offers a unique challenge.
"The popularity of the trails at Oak Mountain stems from their diversity of surface, terrain, and scenery," Mader said. "With 50-plus miles of well-maintained - but not necessarily tame - trails around the lake, traversing the valley, and splitting the ridges, you nearly feel like you've run through three or four different parks in one event."
Over the past few years, Mader has competed on the 42K, 20K and 10K courses at Oak Mountain, and here are his thoughts on each: "The 10k is a great challenge for beginner or intermediate runners. You won't be alone and won't need prior trail running experience to enjoy the race. The longer events however do require some experience. The weather becomes a major factor, as any good Southerner will quickly point out to you. You'll encounter more technical terrain as you wind through longer loops of the park but still be greeted with the same frequency of on-course aide. The 20K is a great challenge for any level of runner and should really be your goal event if you've never run at Oak Mountain before; or if you like to get the global experience, jump in and hold on tight for a 42K tour of one of America's top trails on the Double Oak."
Mader noted that the weather in mid-May is typically sunny and humid near Oak Mountain State Park, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low-80s.
Oak Mountain is the largest state park in Alabama, and it covers nearly 10,000 acres of land. As such, there are numerous opportunities to turn the race into a weekend of fun.
"I have rode my mountain bike around Oak Mountain on several occasions, and the experience is spectacular," Mader said. "Take advantage of the camping available in the park and make a family weekend out of your race. With swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, golf and paddleboarding also available in the park, the race doesn't have to be your only adventure of the weekend."
The XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run is the season finale for the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series, and the top runners in both the 42K and 20K races will earn points toward the series standings.
Each age-group champion from the 42K and 20K courses of this year's race will receive a free entry to the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Hawaii on November 24.