In its second year, the No Business 100 Mile Trail Ultra race course spills over the lower Kentucky border into Tennessee and provides the same amazing natural wonders and scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains, but, as Race Director Bryan Gajus points out, without the long lines.
The course showcases the Big South Fork River and Recreation Area on the Southern Cumberland Plateau, and runs through a wonderland of streams, rivers, waterfalls, Appalachian foothills, hollows, high ridges and deep canyons. Primarily single track, it follows a huge loop out of the Blue Heron Mining Community, through a mostly hardwood forest of oak, hickory, walnut, poplar and white pine. Magnolias shed enormous two-foot-long leaves, rock formations loom overhead, and sometimes it seems like you’re running through underground tunnels of rock. Beneath many weathered cliff faces, you’ll find a cave or rock shelter with a sandy floor formed from the eroding sandstone above.
There are intriguing landmarks along the way such as Charit Creek Lodge, Hazard Cave, Angel Falls Overlook, Twin Arches, the suspension bridge at Pickett State Park, the Blue Heron Mining Bridge and Tipple at the start/finish, and a trip along the rugged Sheltowee Trace. The course reverses direction each year, so you’ll have two ways to experience the race when you give it a try.
And if you do try, be ready for a challenge. The 14,000 feet of vertical gain during the race is not too daunting, but the elevation change is constant. There’s not much opportunity to just relax and speed along flat sections, but runners will experience only a couple of big climbs. When racing in the clockwise direction during even-numbered years, those hills come at an inopportune time between the 80 and 90 mile marks. Footing, like elevation change, also consistently slows runners down. It’s probably the main reason that even the generous 33-hour time limit can seem tight for back-of-the-packers, and why less than half of the starters finished this year. Roots, rocks, leaves and mud are non-stop from start to finish.
Why will No Business mature into a classic 100-mile trail run? The infrastructure is exceptional. The course was marked to perfection (all 100 miles of it), and runners were given GPS devices that allowed for full-time tracking. There were plenty of well-stocked aid stations and the volunteers offered a combination of good help and humor. Couple the great organization with a remarkably scenic, historic, and ever-intriguing course, throw in enough obstacles to make it a worthy ultra challenge, and you’ve got a winner.