Hidden away in the quiet Mountains of North Georgia lay a handful of fern lined trails and cloud covered peaks that only locals know about, trails that are rich with history and beauty, but lie in the shadows of the well known trails. Trails that were, and still are, on the verge of being shut down, but thanks to the hard work of several race directors are being given a new life.
H9 50 seems simple enough, start running in a State Park and keep running until you return to the same State Park. It is not advertised as one of the toughest 50 miler in the country, actually it is not even advertised !! There are no big name sponsors, banners, or cash prizes … only a piece of steel with the letter “H” and the number “9” cut out, a plethera of Christmas lights, and a handful of dedicated volunteers.
Sometime between 6 and 7am, standing in the shadows of cabins 7 and 12 a blurry eyed race director greets every runner in the early morning light. He briefly mentions orange flags, water crossings, Banjo Road, the Road of Despair, sticker bushes, Viking Barbie, and obscure peaks with beautiful names like Little Bastard, Akin Mt, and Payne Mt. … then without any fan fare the clock on a laptop starts and the runners disappear into the early morning mist of the North Georgia Mountains.
Soon the runners start to reappear, they have all changed over the last few hours, they are beat down and beyond tired, yet they all summon the will to run the final hill to cabin #7. They are greeted with cheers from volunteers, runners, and an even more blurry eyed race director … a hand shake and a hunk of steel seal the deal, you have finished H9 50.
The exhausted runners sit in multi colored fabric camp chairs with twinkling Christmas lights overhead recounting their time on course, swearing that they will never run H9 again, waiting until the last runners return, eating hamburgers, smiling, laughing, and making plans to run H9 again.