The Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi Trail 50 is held in early March each year on the Longleaf Horse Trail in the De Soto National Forest just south of Laurel, MS. The race was moved from Leland to Laurel in 1996 by Carl Touchstone, a local dentist and accomplished ultra runner. The 2014 race will be the 18th anniversary of the race in Laurel, and the 13th that commemorates Carl's untimely death due to cancer.
The Longleaf Horse Trail: The course features soft dirt trails, pine needle paths, and fire roads on 12.5 and 6.1 mile loops through the piney woods. (See more about the trail). The 20 K runners do the long loop and are finished. The 50K runners run the big loop twice, and finish on the small loop. The 50M runners do the big loop three times and the small loop twice. (See change) Note that since all 50K and 50 Mile runners come by the start area several times, they can leave a drop bag with extra socks, a change of shoes, or special goodies in the area provided. Plenty of parking along the entrance road and in the campground means you can even go by your car on each loop.
This is a relatively easy course and a good first 20 K / 50 K / 50 Miler.
There is a 12 hour time limit (dictated by the NFS permit) for both the 50K and 50 Mile events. The cut-off for the 50 milers to finish three 12.5 mile loops and start their first 6.1 mile loop is 8:45 elapsed, 2:45 pm, and the cutoff for everyone to start their last 6.1 mile loop is 10:15 elapsed time, 4:15 pm.
It is a rainy time of year in Mississippi, and there are a lot of small creeks on the course. If it's been dry you can step across them, but if it's been rainy they could be knee deep. Hot dry feet are not usually a problem.
The 50 K and 50 Mile runs begin together promptly at 6 am in surreal predawn darkness. Lights are not necessary as the first mile is on smooth double-track, and by then dawn is breaking. The 20K folks start at a civilized 8 am, so they finish just in time for an early lunch. Well supplied aid stations are positioned every two to four miles with easy crew access, so no one has to worry about dehydration or lack of calories. Hammer Nutrition (e-caps) is one of our sponsors and provides the aid station energy drink. If you have not tried Heed yet, you may want to test it during training to be sure it you like it, but most folks do.
An interesting feature of this race is that the organizers allow runners to switch races after one or two loops (anyone who switches during the race will not be eligible for a trophy, but will be counted as a finisher). This makes the Mississippi Trail 50 a great place to try a new distance. If you get part way into the run and decide you have bitten off more than you can chew, just switch down to a shorter distance. The only way to get a DNF is to sit down and make us carry you out!
Each entrant will receive a tech t-shirt. Trophies are awarded to the top several male and female runners in each race. A finisher memento useful to a runner (e.g.: running cap, or gloves or bottle) is given to each finisher. 50 mile finishers also receive a handsome belt buckle. (see some 2014 details) Food and refreshments will be available to each finisher, and hopefully pleasant weather will make relaxing at the picnic grounds with your friends very enjoyable.
The run is sponsored by our major sponsors, South Central Regional Medical Center, the Touchstone family (Alex, Bradley, Kathleen, Wanda, and Brooke), and several other community-minded and good health-promoting sponsors. Many thanks to them for promoting community fitness, and for supporting this race every year.
Volunteers are essential for a successful race. We have many great volunteers who help every year, and we count on them and appreciate them very much. But if you are bringing someone with you who is able and would like to help with the race, we can sure use them. Contact the RD at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put them in a slot where they will be safe, and comfortable (fairly, it's in the middle of the woods), and useful. Race day Volunteers are eligible to run in the annual Volunteer run, which counts toward your ten year award. See the 2013 Volunteer Run.
A physical is not required to qualify to run in this event, but you should be fully trained and in good health to participate. All competitors participate at their own risk. If in doubt as to your physical condition to engage in an event as strenuous and taxing as this 20K, 50K, or 50 Mile run, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice and approval of a licensed physician. The race officials reserve the right to stop any participant who in their opinion is not fit to continue. Runners must be 18 or older to enter. Our NFS permit is for a limited number of runners. Registration is limited to the permit limit + an allowance (based on recent history) for withdrawals and DNS, and historically fills up in early December, so don't put off entering.