50 kilometers. Or 100 kilometers. Take your pick.
The 42nd One Day Hike (ODH) along the C&O Canal Towpath took place on Saturday, April 25th.
The 100K hikers start in Georgetown at 3am, while the 50K hikers start in White’s Ferry, Maryland at 10am. Both groups end in Bolivar, West Virginia (just up the hill from Harper’s Ferry) at the community center.
This was my 4th time participating in the 50K hike. By all accounts it was my fastest time yet, shaving 30+ minutes off of 2014’s time.
Yet the One Day Hike is not a race. It’s not meant to be competitive. Some people treat it that way, but many are happy to enjoy the scenery along the Potomac River and finish with minimal blisters and soreness.
I’ve found the ODH to be one of the most well-organized and well-supported walking or racing events in the DC area. In no small part to the volunteers that plan it, manage it and those volunteers that come out early and stay late to prepare food and drinks, give medical aid and patrol along the trail between support stations to help and give encouragement. ODH co-chair and volunteer coordinator, Mike Darzi, is at the forefront of this successfully run event, communicating with participants and sorting out the details each year.
Diana Partridge, first-time hiking the 50K, “The hike was beautiful and very well-organized. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I’m excited to try the 100k next year.”
Each support station (four stations for the 50K; seven for the 100K) is a veritable feast of snacks, sandwiches, soup, coffee, Gatorade, fruit, candy and more. I like the popcorn and the trail mix with M&Ms. And blue Gatorade is possibly the most delicious liquid after 20 miles of walking. Then, for the finishers at the Bolivar Community Center, there is chili (turkey and veggie), salads, sodas and pizza. I probably eat better on this hike than on most days.
The support stations also feature a medical tent where volunteers give aid to the hikers, including foot care for any pesky blisters.
Mike O’Brien, first-time medical volunteer, “I was happy to volunteer and was encouraged to see the people who I had treated at the half-way mark of the 100K, finish. Next year I’m going to join the hike.”
Once you’ve finished the hike, some people take the shuttle bus back to the Shady Grove Metro stop. But you’re tired by then, and more travel is the last thing you need. The best option is to stay in Bolivar or Harper’s Ferry at a hostel or hotel and then catch the (only) train back to DC the next morning after breakfast.
A worthy event to consider for next year!
The Sierra Club’s One Day Hike
Registration is usually at the beginning of February and the hike takes place the last weekend in April.
$50 for either the 50K or 100K
Results and Tips
50K: 176 of 182 hikers finished (97%)
100K: 56 of 88 hikers finished (64%)
86% percent finishing total is the best in the last eight years.
My time: Finish time 6:53pm (or 7:56 hours of walking and 57 minutes at support stations)
Tips for the 50K
- Training: Do at least 3-4 training hikes between 10-16 miles. More if you can but make sure one hike is 16 miles or longer (20 miles is good, but it does make for a long day!). Note: If you’re doing the 100K, without question do more and longer hikes, at least one 30-40 mile training hike would be the best strategy.
- Attire: Wear the shoes, socks and clothing you’ll use for the ODH on the training hikes. Helps identify blister hot spots and areas of chafing. Many people wear cross-trainers or running shoes. Hiking boots are also fine, but the terrain is flat and you may want to jog a bit.
- Prevent chafing: Use an anti-chafe balm (like Body Glide) in places that rub together.
- Foot care: Use moleskin on your feet before you start on your blister hot spots. Using the Body Glide on your feet also helps.
- Medical: Take a couple Advil at the first support station or after the first 1-2 hours. If you start to get blisters, have them treated at the next support station. Don’t wait, because blisters are the primary reason people don’t finish the hike.
- On the hike: Try alternating between running and walking for short distances. For example, jog 1 minute and walk 3 minutes for a few miles. It helps to use different muscles. Drink a lot of fluids and eat a lot of salty snacks.
*Source: Official ‘2015 ODH results.xls’ spreadsheet