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North Hills Monthly

Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Relay Exciting Challenge for Endurance Runners

Oct 31, 2019 02:21PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Photos courtesy GAP Relay

Some friends attend sporting events together; others may shop or golf, while still others go on trips. And then there are those who run a 150-mile relay.

Nearly 50 teams of runners took part in the 2019 GAP Relay on Oct. 11-12, which was created in 2018 by P3R, the same folks that bring us the Pittsburgh Marathon. Now in its second year, the GAP—Great Allegheny Passage—traverses from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh and passes through woods, fields, mountain tunnels and over rivers and ravines.

“Runners are always looking for different types of experiences to keep their sport fresh and interesting.  We knew that they were looking for exactly this type of event, and we wanted to make it possible for them to participate,” said P3R CEO Troy Schooley.

P3R collaborated with the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA), who oversees the GAP, to host the relay. The event is used as a fundraiser for the alliance, and according to Schooley, more than $10,000 was raised in 2018.

Teams of four, six or eight runners run the 150 mile-course, which is divided into 24 legs. Teams can divvy up the legs however they see fit and run nonstop during the two-day period. Teammates can rest, eat and ride in their vehicles during their teammates’ relay segments.

While P3R is well versed in organizing major running events, Schooley said that they looked to organizers of well-established relay races throughout the country to learn best practices and to ensure that they put on the best event possible.

“Still, the GAP Relay is the first of its kind in western Pennsylvania and along the Great Allegheny Passage,” he said, adding that it is also one of the first trail-running endurance events in the country.

For 2019, P3R partnered with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council for their first carbon-neutral event. Through these efforts, approximately 150 new trees—one for each mile of the race—will be planted along the Great Allegheny Passage. The partnership is part of P3R’s total commitment to host a zero-waste event.

A long distance, two-day event in the fall means the opportunity for all sorts of challenges including sun, rain, chilly weather, all types of terrain and running in the dark.  “Those obstacles are what make this event such an adventure—both for our staff and for the teams participating,” Schooley said.

Darkness that was one of the things that Chris Buckley found most challenging during the 2018 event.

“The night run was surreal,” he said. “There were times that I felt like I was the only one out there. It was downright spooky.” 

Buckley and his team ran both years to raise funds and awareness for the Organization for Autism Research in honor of his 28-year-old son, Tim, who has autism. Their team bears the moniker “Autism Runs.” 

Buckley’s team, four men and four women, consist of friends and fellow runners that he has met over the years. “There are two qualifications: they must have participated in several marathons, and they must be committed to our cause,” said Buckley, who has completed 28 full and half-marathons.

Autism Runs raised nearly $5,000 during the relay in 2018 and at follow-up events throughout the year. Buckley hopes to repeat their success through the 2019 Relay and other activities this next year.

“My son is my hero—this is for him,” Buckley said.

This year, Tim ran with Buckley’s team for the very last segment of the relay. “One of the best things about this event is how we all came together and supported our cause and Tim,” said the proud father.

To learn more about the GAP Relay, visit https://gaptrail.org/about-us

For more information about the GAP Trail Relay 2019 visit https://gaptrailrelay.org, and to learn about Buckley and his team, Autism Runs and their fundraising efforts, visit https://oar.z2systems.com/Buckley2019.