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About the Tussey Mountainback

November 25, 2008 - Erik Brown
This is my 5th blog post about the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Ultramarathon, and I still haven’t written a word about the actual race. Sorry about that, but trust me, I’m almost there. I guess its taking so long because there’s so much to say and because I’m even slower at writing than I am at running.
In this post: some basic information about the event itself. If I get any of this wrong, I trust someone from the Nittany Valley Running Club will set the record straight with a comment below (please and thanks).
The official name of the race is the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon. If you surmised from the name that there is a concurrent 50 mile relay race, give yourself a gold star. The relay teams consist of 2 to 8 runners and there are numerous team categories: young, old, male, female, mixed, you get the picture.
The Mountainback was founded by State College area runners Steve Bodner and Mike Casper. Mike has served as Race Director for the event since its inception. From everything I’ve heard in previous years about the Mountainback, and everything I observed this year, Mr. Casper does a truly outstanding job in that role.
Proceeds from the 2008 race were donated to the Centre Volunteers In Medicine, a local nonprofit initiative whose primary mission is serve the health and wellness needs of uninsured residents of Centre County.
The first Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon was run in October, 2000. In its first year, there were fifteen relay teams and one lone ultrarunner. Deanna and her Dad each ran for a relay team that year and I remember them both telling me about an “old guy” who ran the entire race himself. That “old guy” is Joe “Standby” Shuta who helped me prepare for this year’s race in a thousand different ways.
The event has grown steadily and has been the site of the USA Track & Field 50 Mile National Championships for several years now. By my count, there were 93 relay teams this year along with 90 ultra runners (13 women and 77 men).
Most of the race takes place in the beautiful Rothrock State Forest. The loop course consists of 12 legs ranging from 2.8 miles to 6.2 miles in length. At the end of each leg there is a transition zone / aid station (T.Z.) where the relay runners tag each other, shout encouragement to the ultra runners, and jump in their relay team support vehicles to drive to the next T.Z. Many of the ultra runners also have support vehicles. You might think that all these vehicles driving along the dirt and gravel fire roads of the Rothrock State Forest would throw up quite a bit of dust. You would be correct about that. The nice thing about having so many vehicles on the course is that it helps you stay very alert.
One more thing, the Mountainback has a terrific website. Its well organized and loaded with information about the event, such as this: next year’s race will be held on October 3rd, 2009. Hmmmm…
In my next post: final preparations and a countdown to the start. Please look for this over the weekend.
Hollidaysburg Area YMCA Turkey Trot! This Saturday, November 29th, 8:00 A.M. at the Y!

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