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home > races/results > usa: vermont > jay marathon – one of the hardest races you’ll ever love!

Jay Marathon – One of the hardest races you’ll ever love!
The Jay marathon is a grand adventure in one of the prettiest places in the world. If you’re looking for a PR or a bland marathon, stay home. If you are looking for an adventure that will quite possibly change your life, come hither to the Green Mountains of Vermont because they’ve got a doosey of an adventure for you at the Jay Marathon.

Jay Marathon – One of the hardest races you’ll ever love!

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By Christopher Russell
Posted Friday, 29 December, 2006

The Jay marathon since its inception on 2003 has grown from an off the beaten trail novelty to a favorite event for runners from across the country. That first year only 48 hardy souls crossed the finish line. But, word quickly spread among the running underworld that there was this whacky and beautiful thing going on up in Vermont. The second year the race field more than doubled and by last year’s running it had to be capped at 300 madmen and maniacs. This success story has grown so fast that it has outgrown its current venue. (A handful of crazies is one thing, but an army of them descending on your sleepy small town can be stressful!)

The 2007 version of the marathon will have some surprises. The race director, Dan Des Rosier is working hard as we speak to make positive changes for the future. All things are being considered, even a change in venue to support the tremendous growth and popularity of the event. Also under consideration is adding a stand alone 5k, entirely in a brook, to allow the somewhat less masochistic to join the fun.

Whatever happens, the race director promises to keep all of your favorite Vermont challenges – Mountains – Forests – Mud – Rocks – Trees – Trails – Freezing Rivers – you know the list well if you’ve run in woods of Vermont. Whatever the changes you can be sure that the Jay Marathon will continue to be a happy mélange of challenge and joy for runners.

Dan, the race director assures me that the character and difficulty won’t change and it will remain “crazy and out of the box”. Stay tuned as this story develops!

I would recommend checking out the website from last year’s event – and clicking on the topographic map. The clickable pictures from 2006 are worth a thousand words

Having crossed the finish line, I immediately thought of Rocky One and the famous scene between Rocky and Apollo Creed drooling and bleeding over each other and each repeating, “No Rematch. No Rematch”. I was thinking ‘this is it for me, once is enough; never again, I will never be back’. But, after a day of rest, for whatever insane reason, perhaps too much testosterone, a lack of good sense, or an over abundance of foolish pride, I was already thinking… I will be back next year.
- Bruce Perry

What a race!
This is not a marathon to be entered into cavalierly. The race director Dan Des Rosiers warns you up front that this is not an easy race. He goes out of his way to be very specific about what you can expect. This is a great piece of reverse psychology. Since most runners, especially trail runners and marathoners, are 9-year-old children at heart, I’m sure this kind of rhetoric just makes them want to run the race even more!

Racer Director's warning: The Jay Mountain Marathon, (30.5 miles), is considered by our own participants to be the hardest marathon ever put together; … This is a trail marathon, and using the word trail is stretching it… One section is actually a bushwhack from flagging tape to flagging tape, and another section will take you on a deer trail leading to a mountain brook. You will run in the brook for about 3 miles. At mile 20 you will cross a 50-foot wide river in order to reach aid station # 6. Only the adventurous, experienced trail runner and fit athlete should sign up for this race. You will get wet and very muddy, and you are likely to end up with scratches on your legs.
- RD Dan


"At this point I began to believe that I was being tested for recruitment into the Navy Seals.
- Tom Licciardello


Wouldn’t your say that is an interesting disclaimer to lead with? Let’s review the veracity of these claims. What’s it really like?

  • A 30.5 mile marathon (How many cubits is that?)
  • Deep impenetrable forest (like something out a medieval fairy tale)
  • Up and down a couple mountains (see where those topographical lines get really close together?)
  • Running in a brook for a mile (Not through, not by, not over, IN!)
  • Swimming across a river at mile 20. (How refreshing!)
  • “Deepest mud-hole in the world” at mile 26. (Vermont has two seasons; “Winter” and “Mud”)
  • Running up a sand dune at mile 24. (He forgot to mention that didn’t he?)
    Yes it’s an interesting course and a challenging topography. Some 50 Staters have switched to collecting quarters after this race.

What are the counterpoints? Why would you want to do this?

  • You’ll find things here that you can get nowhere else.
  • A personal challenge for even the most jaded marathoner.
  • Some of the prettiest views and scenery ever.
  • An awesome area to visit and spend some time exploring.
  • Some of the kindest folk you’ll ever meet.
  • An accomplishment you can be proud of
  • A great story to tell the grandkids or one-up your running club buddies.

“I still remember that day in May when I decided to run this crazy race. It sounded so tempting and so intimidating. Particularly enticing was Dan's claim that his scare-mongering is not a marketing pitch.”
– DH

An amazing course in the heart of Vermont.
The course is replete with unique Green Mountain adventure. The glaciers that retreated through here a few thousand years ago left a land beautiful and full of surprises. In the winter this section of the world gets a bunch of snow. In the spring the snow melts and nurtures a dense New England forest. The region is famous for it’s skiing in the darker months and these same hills greet runners at Jay for some quad-busting ups and downs.

If you enjoy a lot of mud and muck, your shoes getting stuck in quicksand like trails, getting bushwhacked, bees and mosquitoes, poison ivy and poison oak, crossing a couple of brooks and climbing straight up a mountain into clouds and a drop in temperature, then this race is for you! Not for the timid. But a very rewarding feeling crossing the finish line.
- V.H. Miami

The Green Mountains are pushed up as a giant tectonic wrinkle across the spine of Vermont. Jay peak is a representative 3,968 feet of elevation. The retreating glaciers wore away some chunks and left great piles of granite and dark soil. This makes for boulders, cold freshwater streams and lots of dark sticky mud in the low parts. The glaciers even left some sand for runners to struggle through in the till.

“My single enduring memory from the event occurred within the first couple of miles when a young lady in front of me tried to pull her foot out of the mud, leaving behind her shoe and knee-high gaiter. You couldn't even see the shoe--there was this gaiter sticking straight up out of the mud. You'll have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment if you finish this 'run.'”
- Carl Tyrie

The race itself is a well managed and organized affair with support on the course every 5k or so. The course is extremely well marked with orange marking tape. Even those runners who go off course quickly re-find their way.

The course was perfectly marked, often with marking tape every 4-6 feet. It is nearly impossible to go off course.
- T. T. from Maine,

At the finish there is a big raffle where contestants can win some good stuff. There is a barbeque and of course some beer. You will find the amused locals a happy, friendly and helpful crew. Dan, the race director, hails from Montreal and is everywhere answering questions personally during the event. At the finish it’s like a strange family reunion with everyone glowing from exhaustion and happy to be finished. .

Last year there were 600 participants, 300 for the full marathon, and 300 for the half marathon. This year they are planning to be able to accommodate at least 1,000. All in all it’s a well managed, well organized, thoughtful and friendly event, especially for a trail marathon!

“The course was great if you like a really challenging run. There was a lot of mud because it had rained for most of the early summer. The mountain was fun and the view from the top was spectacular. The aid stations were great, plenty of good food and helpful people. The organization was great, the pre-race dinner was good. The post-race cookout was very good. All in all I had a great time at the race and I would definitely do it again next year.”
- M. D.

Where is it? How to get there?
Vermont is snug in between upstate New York and New Hampshire. The closets airports are Montreal and Burlington Vt. You could also get there from Lebanon, NH or eve Manchester. These are between 1 and 2 hours driving time – don’t worry there won’t be any traffic, except maybe some errant moose. Check the race info for places to stay. If you plan ahead you can usually get a pretty good deal on a rental – the area is full of ski accommodation.

Burlington Vt. – on the shores of Lake Champlain.
Burlington is a good travel destination. It is the largest city in Vermont. It’s a good sized college town on the shores of Lake Champlain. In the summer there is plenty going on and lots to see. There is outdoor dining and entertainment and a couple of decent breweries.

The scenery during the marathon (actually about 28 miles) is great--lots of beautiful forest, creeks, fields, and mountains. Drive up into Canada and go to Knowlton for some quaint shopping and dining. I would recommend this event. Expect a hellacious course but a great feeling of accomplishment when you finish.
- Richard Johnson

Montreal – “The Paris of North America”
The City of Montreal is a wonderful and charming place. It sits at a fork in the great St. Lawrence River an hour or so north of the Vermont border. I’ve spent many a fine summer afternoon strolling among the outdoor cafes of St. Catherine Street, checking out the beautiful people after a brisk run up Mount Royal. It has all the romance and fine dining of a Paris honeymoon. Your dollars will go far and there are numerous places to stay and boatloads of culture.

Quick History of Vermont

"You know, this is such beautiful country up here it should be called the Northeast Kingdom."
- U.S. Senator George D. Aiken

Vermont was first visited by Samuel de Champlain in 1609 who stayed long enough to found an outpost and name a big lake after himself. The British didn’t show up until Fort Drummer was built near Brattleboro in 1724. For a few decades New York and New Hampshire tussled over which state owned the territory. With the coming of the American Revolution Vermont (Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys) declared its independence. It wasn’t until 1791 that Vermont became the 14th State in the Union.

Vermont made quite a contribution of manpower to the Union cause in the Civil War. Believe it or not the confederates ‘invaded’ Vermont when a group of 25 soldiers attacked St. Albans across the Canadian Border in 1864.

In the intervening years Vermont’s dominant sheep farming was replaced by dairy industry. Today you can get some awesome cheese on your marathon trip or some maple syrup. Vermont has a population of just over 600,000 people. Vermont is an interesting blend of agriculture and democracy that will make you smile.

This race is not for the weak-hearted or for those looking for a P.R. It's for those people who want to say they did something bigger than themselves... the course is grueling... severe up hills and down hills, rough terrain, water (yes, you run through it) and parts of trails that are unfit for animals let alone humans. The sand dune hill is sadistic
– F.D.

Come to the Green world of Vermont and take the challenge!
The most prominent thing you’ll find in your trip to Vermont in the summer is the sea of green. The forest and farm views stretch unending on rolling mountains into the horizon. The place is simply alive with greenery and wilderness. Vermont boasts some of the best trail systems in the country. There are also plenty of cold rivers and streams cutting the mountains. If you’re into riding your trail bike, paddling, hiking or running, there is a trail for you here.

The Jay Marathon will make you doubt your sanity by challenging you to your core. It will leave you drained and beat. But the thrill of accomplishment, the bragging rights and the memories will last a life time. Come on up to Vermont and forge your very own adventure this summer. Let the Jay marathon surprise you. Meet the challenge!



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