It’s dark in the Ouachita forest in the middle of the night, but the evening shines pretty brightly for more than 160 ultra runners who came from around the county to navigate their way through one of the oldest 100-mile races, the Traveller. Lou Payton, the first female to ever do the grand slam, founded the race with her husband Charley in 1991. Chrissy Ferguson, who directed the race for the past 15 years – and will be running her 20th Traveller this year – said, “The best thing about the Traveller are the aid stations and volunteers. In Ultra Running Magazine, it was voted to have both the best volunteers and aid stations of any other 100 miler. My favorite part of the race is running over Smith Mountain on the return, about 71/72 miles into the race. I’ve picked up my pacer and it’s so dark on top of the mountain if you turn your flashlight off you can see a billion stars. When you shine your light in the mowed grass, you can see the twinkle of spider eyes as you run.”
Photo Credit: RunArkansas.com
The Traveller is one of the Western State’s qualifiers, the grandfather of 100’s and one of the oldest 100-mile races. If you want to test your ultra running skills, the Travellers is a great race to start with and you are guaranteed to be challenged from beginning to end. Many runners enjoy this race so much, they come back to the AT100 year after year. The scenery of the Ouachita Forest is beautiful and the volunteer support at the aid stations is a lifesaver. They encourage you, give you a shoulder to lean on or to help stretch out tired legs and feed your belly as well as your spirit. When you see an aide station up ahead, seeing the laser lights and the disco balls is almost like seeing a shining beacon of hope. Stacey Shaver, an AURA ultra runner who just this March completed her 100th ultra distance race shared, “The volunteers are what makes the Traveller so unique. Every time I race out of state, I’m quickly reminded of how spoiled we are with AURA. There are aid stations every 4 to 5 miles where you could go 8 to 10 elsewhere. I can’t imagine the effort it takes to gather and coordinate that many volunteers. Not only the abundance of aid stations but it’s also the people who offer up their time are so special. They ALL go out of their way to ensure we are well cared for. Many would literally give you the shirt off their back. I think this alone gives the race a magical feel to it, which is why so many keep going back to it, including myself.”
Photo Credit: Arkansas Outside
The race starts THIS SATURDAY MORNING and continues in to Sunday morning. The Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network tracks the runners live and the Williams Junction Fire Department is always close by for any runners who are in distress. We also couldn’t do the race without the pacers. Stacey loves sharing miles with her pacers and says it’s uplifting to be able to run beside a friend and talk; it makes the miles go by fast. Join us along with the family and friends of AT100 and AURA runners to celebrate and cheer them on ever step of the way.