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Run or Bust – Buckeye Buster Race Report by Randy Wittmer

2014 Buckeye Buster 50M
Salt Fork State Park, Cambridge, OH
June 7, 2014

Run or Bust; Randy Wittmer

One of my favorite quotes was delivered by Hellen Keller – “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing.” There are many reasons we individually are drawn to ultra running and trails but I imagine that there are several common ones also, like a love for adventure, affinity for nature and appreciation for the outdoors. We lose and find ourselves on single track paths along natures obstacle course and ultimately we love the euphoria that rewards our perseverance and in short time are eager for what’s next.

We each have our special courses too I imagine. They’re the ones that challenge, sometimes defeat and often rewards us in just the right combination to keep us hungry. Running in Salt Fork State Park and especially in the annual Buckeye Buster is one of those for me. Personal best and worst placements are run here but it keeps pulling us back.

Western Reserve Racing uses a well defined 10.4 mile loop throughout the park. There are three loops for the 50k and new this year was the addition of a one loop 10 mile distance and five loop 50 mile race. The course is a challenging one and there is more than 4,000′ of elevation gain and 4,000′ of elevation loss. In addition to normal rolling hills there are at least three particular areas where the uphill climbs will challenge you, and all three are found in approximately miles 5-10 of the loop. Luckily, aid stations are located 5-6 miles apart and more than sufficiently stocked with re-supplies and fantastic volunteers.

It was a beautiful morning for this years race. When the 50 mile race started at 7AM there were moderate temperatures in the upper 60’s and a blanket of fog laying across the tops of trees. Early June is unpredictable for Ohio weather and long hard passes through mud or high heat conditions – or both – are characteristic. We were fortunate (in my opinion) this year to have less mud but in exchange we were given progressively increasing temperatures.

I took this picture with my iPhone just prior to the start of the race.

It was the kind of day when 10 milers finished well, 50k runners were thankful they had completed the third loop and 50 milers looked on jealously at the turn when realizing they had advanced just several miles past the half way point. Before the end of the 50 miles race temperatures had climbed into the mid-80’s and humidity was high. Increasingly hands could be found resting on hips and knees and shirts were quickly becoming casualties of the heat.

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Randy Wittmer Picture Courtesy of Steve Pierce Photography

As I neared mile 40 and rounded a stream bank I recognized a runner from the front of the pack who was gingerly settling himself down into a seat in the water. It will be a long time before I forget the look of complete refreshment that came over his face as he waved me on. It was a competitive day but one that was also chock full of sportsmanship. Runners supported runners and it was a great reminder of why ultra endurance trail racing in NE Ohio is special on multiple levels.

By day’s end 159 combined runners had toed the start line of all three races and 146 were finishers. Jason Howland, Randy Wittmer and Mike Dowdell topped the men’s overall portion of the 50 mile race in that order as did Bethany Gentry and Kimberly Durst for the women.

Finisher medals for the race are unique and of good quality but test yourself on this course and you may develop a sense of completion that is a swag unto itself.





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