SUMMERVILLE – Saturday, Aug. 25 will mark a significant achievement in the life of one local man. That is the day Anthony Rosario-Adams of Fairmount City will become one of the few to once again finish the Baker Trail UltraChallenge.
The Baker Trail UltraChallenge is a 50-mile foot race that requires an individual or relay team to finish in 14 hours or less. What makes the UltraChallenge unique is not only that it is a 50-mile run, but that it takes three consecutive years to cover the entire 133-mile trail — which crosses Armstrong, Jefferson, Clarion, Indiana, Forest and Westmoreland counties as part of the Rachel Carson Trails Conservatory.
This year’s race — which begins in Summerville and continues 42 miles to Plumville, before turning north eight miles to the finish line at a private farm in Smicksburg — will earn Rosario-Adams the third and final piece of the one-of-a-kind medal created specifically for this race, as well as a rolling pin.
“I’m not sure why, but everyone who completes the three sections gets a rolling pin,” Rosario-Adams laughed, suggesting it may be connected to the fact that the race takes part on the “Baker” Trail.
Rosario-Adams, who said earlier this week that he was never much of a runner, signed up for his first Baker Trail UltraChallenge in 2016 at the urging of a friend who didn’t want to take on the challenge alone.
“I wasn’t a big runner in high school, so I never really had a desire to do anything like this,” Rosario-Adams said. He explained that although he had participated in a few other marathons and adventure races, he never ran anything close to 50 miles before. “My friend kept hounding me, [and] I like a challenge so he eventually talked me into it.”
According to Rosario-Adams, the first year of the competition was really difficult, and he finished the race in 13 hours and 41 minutes, just 19 minutes ahead of the required end. He attributed his performance to less-than-adequate training and preparation.
“I did my own thing that first year. I didn’t run that much,” he said, noting that at the time he was only running three miles a day four to five days a week. “That first race was tough for my friend and I. We both finished, but it was a struggle.”
Motivated to do better the second year, Rosario-Adams upped his game and finished the 2017 leg of the race in 12 hours and 19 minutes.
“I did better the second time, but it was still a miserable race,” he said, explaining that he had to deal with muscle cramps through most of the course.
Still not completely satisfied with his performance, he upped his training routine tremendously this year — running six days a week totaling 173 miles per month — and hopes to complete the race in under 11 hours.
“It’s hard to fit training in with family life, work life and my church life,” Rosario-Adams said, adding that he wakes up every morning before 5 a.m. to train.
“I kind of love running now,” he continued, explaining that the most rewarding part for him is feeling the high that comes from running, especially after a race. “As good as you may feel before a run, and despite the ups and downs along the way, you feel great at the end.”
Although relay teams of five runners can break the Baker Trail UltraChallenge into smaller sections, Rosario-Adams said he prefers the challenge of competing on his own.
“I do it for the challenge,” he said, explaining that the race is both mentally and physically challenging, not only dealing with the rough and uneven terrain that makes up the course of wooded areas and dirt and paved country roads, but the guarantee of muscle cramps along the way. “You’re going to hurt no matter how good of shape you’re in.”
In fact, for Rosario-Adams, the most challenging part of the UltraChallenge is finding ways to avoid and ultimately deal with cramping during the run, which is something he put extra thought into this year.
“I’ve tried a bunch of different things, including changing up what I eat, to hopefully help with the cramping,” he said.
He also described the importance of having a plan ahead of the race that determines when to eat, take a break or freshen up along the course.
“The object for me is to keep moving,” he said, noting that he has eaten on the run on several occasions. “If I stop it’s hard to get going again.”
Despite the competitiveness and pressure of the timed UltraChallenge, Rosario-Adams said everyone from the racers to the volunteers and spectators show nothing but support until the end.
“My wife is very supportive. She travels all around and keeps track of me on the course,” he said. “She really gets into it.”
For the 2018 Baker Trail UltraChallenge, Rosario-Adams said 55 solo runners and eight relay teams — also including local runners Mike and Angie Fricko, Tim Irons, Jim Brosius, Allen Clinger, Eric Shumaker, Ryan Shumaker and Rosario-Adams’ step-son, Jeremy Troup — will take their marks at 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 25 and must cross the finish line by 8:30 p.m.
While he said it’s too soon to say whether or not he will take on a fourth UltraChallenge, Rosario-Adams said his ultimate goal is to inspire others to challenge themselves and try something new, such as running.
“You’ll never know whether or not you like something if you never try,” he said, encouraging those who might want to try running to start with small goals and work their way up. “Don’t compare yourself to others. Running is about you and challenging yourself.”
For more information on the Baker Trail UltraChallenge, visit www.rachelcarsontrails.org/events/ultrachallenge.