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ADVENTURE ON TAP: RUNNING THE DEVIL’S PATH

I’ve got a lot on the calendar for this year. Most of it definite. Some of it penciled in. But there’s one single “event” that I’m excited about more than anything else. And it’s not even a race or a formal event. It’s an adventure that’s been on my wish list ever since I first heard about it. A one-shot trail run of the infamous “Devil’s Path” through the Catskill Mountains of New York State.

A regular contender on various “toughest trails” lists for the United States and North America, The Devil’s Path is a brutal 24 mile trail traversing 7 peaks (6 of them over 3500 feet) and featuring 18,000 feet of elevation change. It is widely regarded by many as one of the toughest day hikes in North America, and most hikers break it up into a 3 day/2 night undertaking.

This summer I’m going to be running it all in one (long) day along with two friends of mine.

There are three classic mountain range traverses in the North Eastern United States. Each of them brutally demanding as one-shot runs. The dangerous Presidential Range Traverse in the White Mountains, the spectacular Great Range Traverse of the Adirondack High Peaks, and The Devil’s Path Traverse of the Catskill Mountains. All three are on my “when life aligns properly than jump at the chance to do them” list and, while chatting with friends late last year, the stars began to align for tackling the Catskills this summer.

This isn’t a “trail run” in your traditional sense. It’s scrambling up and down rocks at speed with thoroughly unpredictable weather and unforgiving terrain thrown in. With 750 feet of elevation change / per mile, The Devil’s Path (TDP) is no joke. Whereas most mountain range traverses stick to the ridges in between the peaks, TDP doesn’t, climbing and descending all 7 peaks individually. Backcountry self-sufficiency (water sources are scarce) and injury prevention are key, and mental endurance will prove to be every bit as important as physical stamina. This will make for a brutally long 16-18 hour day if all goes well for us, starting early with headlamps, and possibly finishing in the dark.

The guys I’m running TDP with are in better condition than I am, so I’ve had to step up my game, and it’s already paying off in spades. How does one train for something like this? By kicking one’s own butt on a routine basis. I’ve been running hill repeats on the steepest, longest, most technical trails I can find in our area; going for longer trail runs (10+ miles) with a hydration pack for weight at least twice a week; as well as incorporating a lot more bodyweight strength training (i.e. – pull-ups, push-ups, squats, planks, etc.) into my routine. That, and lots of active recovery and use of a foam roller whenever needed.

I love being in the mountains more than any other place, so The Devil’s Path is the type of running I’ve had in mind ever since I started losing weight. Crazy that it’s taken 3 years to even get to a baseline for this type of thing. All my former accomplishments are now just normal training… that’s crazy. I’m beyond excited for our TDP run this summer, and will keep everyone posted! In the meantime, here are a few links for your reading pleasure…

LINKS:

NYTIMES: 2 Days, 3 Nights On A Path Named For A Devil

Backpacker.com: Twelve Toughest Trails

Gear Junkie Videos: Hardest Hike In The East

Team Inov-8: Devil’s Path by Ben Nephew


Image by Miguel Vieira, Flickr. Used by Permission Under Creative Commons License.

5 Comments

  1. jon jon

    Great blog. I have a second home near the Devil’s Path and you may have inspired me to give this a try too. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Jon! Sorry I never replied to this – somehow it snuck through… hope you’ve had a chance to venture out on the Devil’s Path by now? -B

  2. chris chris

    Ben. Like you, this has been something, exactly as you wrote, is one of my goals. I plan on running, jogging, and crawling half of it this November, then the full course late next spring 2014. I don’t know if you have a follow up, report on how the run went. Thank you, Chris

    • Chris – I see you found my follow-up report; hope your November attempt goes well! It’s brutal, but oh so beautiful – enjoy it!!! -B

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