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Glacier Ridge Trail Ultramarathon Tests Runners’ Mettle

Mar 31, 2015 11:00PM ● Published by Clare Heekin Lynch

“Off-roading” is typically a term saved for four-wheelers and souped-up trucks, but on Saturday, May 9, Moraine State Park will be overrun with a different kind of off-roading in the form of two-legged running enthusiasts traversing the backwoods trails of this beautiful western Pennsylvania park. The runners will be competing in the fifth annual Glacier Ridge Trail (GRT) Ultramarathon and Trail Race.

According to its website, the GRT is named for the “meandering ridge that is the terminal moraine which corresponds to the most southerly point reached by advancing glaciers during the Pre-Illinoisan Ice Age, some one to two million years ago,” and consists of four races, spanning three distances—30K, 50K and 50 miles. The races provide participants a choice of distances to match their experience, early-season fitness, and season-long goals.

Event cofounders Bob Fargo and Dan Adley first came up with the idea to host this event in 2010, when they were visiting Adley’s lake house in nearby Mercer County. “We were looking for trails where we could do training runs, so we decided to investigate the trails at Moraine,” shared Fargo. “We realized that, like us, a lot of people just didn’t know about the convenience of the park, along with its fantastic trail system. We thought that it would be a great setting for an event of some kind. We knew that there were not a lot of ultramarathon trail events in the region, and that there was real potential to host an event that could benefit both area runners and the park itself.”

Today, more than 300 runners from all over the country and Canada participate in the annual race. Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau President, Jack Cohen, couldn’t be more excited about the results. “Not only does the event benefit Moraine State Park through the Moraine Preservation Fund (MPF) and the Moraine McConnell’s Mills Jennings Commission (3MJC), but it benefits the community as a whole,” he said. “Racers’ families, volunteers, vendors and spectators all get to enjoy the park and the rest of our county throughout their visit, and our local economy really benefits from it.”

Cohen encourages visitors to explore the miles of paved and off-road bike and hiking trails, environmental education trails, nature centers, bird watching sanctuaries, lake canoeing, kayaking and fishing that the park has to offer.

This year, to keep race offerings fresh and to encourage runners of all levels to participate, event coordinators have added the 50-mile, five-person relay. “This offers the perfect chance to try the sport of trail racing with family, friends or running club buddies, or to take on the terrain as a corporate challenge,” explained Fargo. In addition to an exceptional, single-track trail for racers, the 50-mile course also includes a section of very hilly, yet very runnable, double-track roads through beautiful hardwood forests. “It’s challenging, but it’s not intimidating—it’s a lot of fun, actually!” said Fargo.

Not only is the race exciting for the competitors, but it’s also quite a sight for spectators, too. “These endurance athletes—because they truly are athletes—navigate mud, rocks, roots, weather and even darkness to complete the race,” said Cohen. “Some of them run upwards of 14 hours, which is truly an impressive feat given the rough terrain.”

“The atmosphere is so different from a traditional road marathon,” agreed Fargo. “There is such a different level of camaraderie and you can really feel that on race day.”

Ron Boltey, MPF treasurer and board member, is amazed at how the event has benefited the park over the past few years. “This race has raised about $45,000 for MPF and 3MJC since its inception, and we try to reinvest all of these funds back into the park for improvements,” he said. “Events like the GRT directly affect the longevity of Moraine State Park.”

Fargo can see the difference the race has made in the park as well. “The general use of the trail system has increased dramatically over the past few years because of the improvements and the increased awareness of the trail system resulting from the GRT,” he said. “Everyone, from the runners to the park patrons, truly benefit from all of the hard work.”  

The event is open to everyone, and volunteers and sponsorships are always welcomed. To learn more, visit or email Bob Fargo at

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