When the first race of 8-ish miles ran through the trails at Sprague Brook Park, about 30 or 40 hearty souls participated.
Over the last 10 years, the event has grown to include more than 100 runners with 8 in the Rough taking a spot as one of the favorite trail races in Western New York.
The race began as event coordinator Mark Lawrence wanted to feature a running race on the trail system created by the Western New York Mountain Bicycling Association with permission from Erie County. The deep woods of the trails, the twists, turns, roots, and ruts seemed a perfect test for local trail runners.
"It's a no-frills, low-key trail run with really high return," Lawrence said. "It requires endurance, it has technical sections, it's a pavement start that goes into cross-country ski trails then into single track.
"We keep it small with around 100 or so. We don't overly advertise it. It's not the biggest event but it's a good, boutique event."
The race, which takes place at 10 a.m. on Sunday, begins at the Casino in Sprague Brook Park. This year's event includes a new distance, 4 in the Rough. Last year organizers added a 6-mile route, but that was still close to the distance of the long course, which comes in around 8.7 miles.
"We looked at different trail sections to use for those that aren't up for 8.7 miles," Lawrence said. "It's a great course. It starts off in the same way but uses some of the other trails. By all means it's a practical distance and course and not a two-hour event."
The long route features a gentle start that rolls into hard-core single track. There are two water stops on the course, which includes tight turns with plenty of ascents and descents in deep sections of the park trails. Oh, and there are creek crossing for good measure.
The new 4-mile course is tamer with less pressure, turning off quickly from the long route but then using the same finish.
While trail running is not as popular as a road 5K, more Western New Yorkers have tried out the off-road courses. Lawrence along with the company Heart Rate Up organized several trail races, including courses in Allegany State Park and in Ellicottville. This summer saw the continuation of two trail running series, again a low-key affair, with weekly distances clocking around 3 miles in Sprague Brooke and Chestnut Ridge Park.
Lawrence started trail running himself as way to reduce the impact from pounding the pavement. But trail running is no walk in the park.
"It's never the same course. It's not measured like a road course. It changes constantly," Lawrence said. "There is a risk factor and while anyone can trail run, it's not for everyone. But for a lot of people it's addictive. You go out and try it for the first time and you're huffing and puffing and a little muddy and it's such a thrill. You're used to hiking or walking trails and this is such a different experience."
That different experience is exactly what some runners, like Kelly Roberts, is looking for.
"I got sick last year and was frustrated by my clock times, so I started switching to more distance and trail runs," Roberts said. "It took my focus off the clock and put back the fun in running for me. I’m a nature lover but used to be afraid of my ability to run trails. Races this showed me I can. Everyone is so kind and encouraging."
And those rocks and roots aren't necessarily all that scary.
"I am quite possibly one of the most accident-prone people and have fallen and gotten hurt at more road races than trail ones," Katie Gladwell said.
Race-day registration begins at 8:30 am. Fees are $35 for 8 in the Rough and $25 for 4 in the Rough. Proceeds help to support HEART Animal Rescue and the East Concord Volunteer Fire Department.
Welcoming the men
The second Queen City Half Marathon remains an all-women event for 13.1 miles. But for those who want to participate in the new 5K, that event is open to both men and women.
The co-ed 5K is new for the 2017 race, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 1, in downtown Buffalo.
"A lot of men wanted to run and be part of it and with the women-only aspect of it, we wanted to find a different way to get the guys in there," said race director Anne Horan. "The 5K also lets people who want to be part of the event but can't run a half marathon still be part of it."
The 5K, which is in the process of being certified, will begin at the same point as the half marathon, on Washington Street near The Buffalo News building. The 5K, which begins at 8 a.m., will run the same first 3.1 miles through downtown and around the Erie Basin Marina before turning left on Washington Street toward the finish, which will be near the outfield of Coca-Cola Field.
The half marathon begins at 8:10 and continues to Michigan Street then Ohio Street, taking runners to the Outer Harbor, Union Ship Canal, past Tifft Nature Preserve, and back to Coca-Cola Field.
Those in the 5K will get a wine glass and technical t-shirt while half marathoners get a wine glass, shirt, and finisher's medal.
- 8 In The Rough Trail Run and 4 In The Rough Trail Run, 10 a.m., Sunday, Sprague Brook, Mark Lawrence 574-0888
- Scrub Run, 5K, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Cazenovia Park, Christina Lapsley 706-2104
- Chautauqua Ultras, 50 Miles, 50K, 6-Hours, 7 a.m., Saturday (Sept. 16), Mayville Lakeside Park, Tom Summerville 607-0328
- Hospice Dash 5K, 9 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 16), Porter On The Lake, Youngstown, Paul Beatty 998-5777
- Queen City Architecture Run, 3.5 miles, 9 a.m., Saturday (Sept. 16), Big Ditch Brewing Company, 55 East Huron St., Jared Oakley 883-5566
- Mighty Niagara Half Marathon, 9:15 a.m., Saturday (Sept. 16), Artpark, Lewiston, Paul Beatty 998-5777
- Connors Wiener Run 5K, 10 a.m., Saturday (Sept. 16), Connor’s Hot Dog Stand, 8934 Old Lakeshore Rd., Angola-On-The-Lake, Jeffrey J. Connors 926-2218
- Kevin Guest Fall Fest 5K, 4:30 p.m., Saturday (Sept. 16), Kevin Guest House, 782 Ellicott St., Pam Chrzanowski 882-1818
- Niagara Celtic 5K, 10 a.m., Sunday (Sept. 17), Krull Park, 6108 Lake Rd, Olcott, Randy Brownlee 417-2410
- 26th Annual Shea’s 5K Run, 11:30 a.m., Sunday (Sept. 17), Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St., Cassandra Lippert 847-1410