Conquer the Cove Marathon Course Description

Marathon Course Description (3504ft of elevation gain):

There will be a Marathon Time Limit of 6 and 1/2 hours (14.66 minutes per mile).
There will be 2 intermediate cutoffs for the marathon:
– Runners must reach AS #2 (7.97 miles) in 1 hour 45 minutes (13.17 minutes per mile) to proceed on the marathon course.  If you don’t make this cutoff you will be directed onto the 25k course. We would rather have you finish the 25k than be cut from the marathon course.
– Runners must reach the AS #6 (18.57 miles) within 4 hours 10 minutes (13.46 minutes per mile) to continue on to the finish.
– These cutoffs are set so that, if you make them, you will have adequate time to get to the finish.   These cuts occur at our main water stop, and the last opportunity to get participants off the course and back to the race headquarters.  After this spot on the course, runners will be heading uphill for the next 2.3 miles.  It is a difficult and demoralizing climb for everyone and race paces tend to slow down dramatically.

For those of you looking for the last step before trying an Ultra Marathon, this is it.  You will get everything an Ultra has in 5 less miles.  This course should give you the challenge, mentally and physically, that you need to be able to finish a 50k.

Elevation Profile

Miles 1-8 are the same for each race.
Runners will leave Loch Haven Lake and run onto Timberview Road.  Timberview road is an asphalt road.  You will take this road 1.23 miles to the Timberview Access into Carvins Cove.  Just after entering the gate you will take a left on to Trough.  This is a 1.13 mile steep climb with some rocks and roots but mostly good footing.  Many people will run this trail too hard and pay for it later (usually at the 1000ft climb).  You might as well enjoy the mountain laurel and turkey beard as you climb up.  At the top of Trough, you will come to the Brushy Mountain Fire Road. You will take a left onto this dirt road for .4 miles towards Buck.  Buck will be on your right at (WS #1 – 2.88 Miles – water only).  We’ll call this the “Overconfidence Gap” aid station, since most of you will be energized the the beginning of the race and feeling like you can run all day.  Buck starts out as a steep rocky downhill that goes straight into 2 switchbacks and then winds and rolls down the mountain for most of the 1.26 miles.  At about .9 into Buck, you cross the creek and start climbing to the Hotel intersection.  At Hotel you will take a right for 1.14 miles.  Hotel goes up and down, without much elevation change.  There will be a lot more mountain laurel here.  Hotel ends near the main parking lot for Carvins Cove trail access, Bennett Springs.  Just below the parking lot, Hotel intersects at the next trail Hi-Dee-Hoe.  You will take a right here and climb for .3 miles until you veer left onto the 4 Gorge Trail.  This is a 2.38 mile rolling up and down trail that has a couple of short climbs and descents.  This will take to Brushy Mtn. Fire Road and the “Oasis” (WS #2 – 7.97 Miles – water, Skratch, food).  As you pop out of the woods and hit the Brushy Mountain Fire Road you will probably be a bit dazed and confused with the aid station commotion, but the most important details here are, 25k runners will head right, up the fire road, and Marathon runners will go straight.

Again, this is an important spot on the course because the Marathoners will continue heading straight for their 10 mile loop and the 25k runners will head right heading up the long 1000ft climb on the Brushy Mountain Fire Road.


From here you will continue straight on the 4 Gorge Extension for .96 miles.  This trail is a half down and then half up trail (it probably runs better in the opposite direction but you will have to run the course next year to see if this is true).  4 Gorge Ext will take you to the top of Tuck-a-Way where you will take a left.  Tuck-a-Way is a .82 mile trail that is gradually downhill, minus one short steep hill, that you can roll through with lots of speed.  This will take you to the 4 Way where you will head straight on Enchanted Forest.  You will be on this trail for .64 miles where it has been rerouted to the Happy Valley Road (HVR) where you will take a right to the “Deja Vu” aid station (WS#3 – 10.39 – water, Skratch, food) and then take a right back into the very scenic second half of the pine forested Enchanted Forest trail for .42 miles.  This section of trail is probably the most photographed spot in Carvins Cove and you may be able to see one of the resident bald eagles, as there are a couple nests just beyond the water.  This will take you back to HVR where you will take a right followed by an immediate left onto the .3 mile Little Bell.  This is a beautiful .3 mile section of pine needle covered trail that will take you back to HVR.  Here you will continue straight across HVR onto the 1.82 mile Schoolhouse.   Schoolhouse is a fairly level trail the crosses a few creeks.  It will be hard to keep your feet dry on this trail.  I suggest just running through the creeks.  At the end you will again come to the halfway point at HVR at the  “No Man’s Land” aid station (WS #4 – 12.96 – water).  Here you are at the furthest point from civilization and an exit from Carvins Cove.  You will take a left and stay on the dirt road for 1.08 miles until you come to Arrowhead on your right. This trail starts out on one of my favorite sections as it follows the creek.  It will continue to go up and down as you navigate 4 creek crossings.  In total this is a rolling 1.63 mile trail.  At it’s end you will come to HVR and take a right for .06 miles to the entrance to Songbird and the “Deja Vu” aid station (WS #5 – 15.73 – water, Skratch, food)Songbird is a flowy trail that starts out with a steep uphill for the first .26 mile section where it comes to a gravel road, which you will cross, and continue on for the remaining 1.91 miles until it takes you to HVR again.  Here you will take a right and continue on to the base of the Brushy Mountain Fire road and the 1000ft climb for the next 2.89 miles.  A half mile into the climb you will reach the “Oasis” (WS #6 – 18.57 – water, Skratch, food).  From here you will most likely question your sanity for entering this race at least once (warning; this section may make entrants cuss, shake their fist at the sky, or lie down while slamming their hands and feet into the ground in the act of a tantrum).  From the aid station you will continue to climb another 2.41 miles to the top of the climb.   One of the most common comments from previous racers is that they planned to run the entire 1000ft climb, but when they got to it, the runner in front of them started hiking, so they started hiking.  From the top you will have a .92 mile descent to the “Are We There Yet” aid station (WS #7 –  11.3  & 21.9 Miles – water, Skratch, food).  Now it is a rip roaring descent on the Gauntlet.  This is a 2.16 mile fast descent that will have you ready for a flat stretch of trail.  This is also one of the most common places to see black bear.  It starts out gradually losing elevation on good footing, then quickly starts to get steep with 3 different short steep sections of descent.  From here it is more gradual with some sections of rocks.  At the bottom you will take a right onto Horse Pen for 1.25 mile.  Horse Pen is a an old dirt access road that will take you to the gate that you came to at the start of the race.  Everyone seems to hate Horse Pen and it’s gradual climb.  At the end you will go through the gate and be at the “Feets Don’t Fail Me Now” aid station (WS #8 – 14.71 & 25.31 Miles – water only).  Now onto the asphalt of Timberview Road for .76 miles, where you will take a left onto Loch Haven Lake property and the last .39 miles to the Finish!  A word of caution, as this trail has been known for it’s shoe sucking mud.  After you cross the creek you will come to a mud pit.  Get through this with both of your shoes on and consider yourself lucky.  From here you will hit some gravel, see the lake, smell the hamburgers being grilled and hopefully hear some cowbell, as you are soooo close to the finish, a high 5, and success!

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