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St. Croix Scenic 50


I wanted to post for you, my fellow runners, some information about a new ultramarathon, the St. Croix Scenic 50, which debuts this month in sunny St. Croix. Registration is still open until this Friday, Jan. 15, so if you feel spontaneous and long for warmer climbs, now’s your chance!

The race’s founder, Matt Halk, graciously gave his time to answer a few questions about how one goes about organizing such a race.
D: You said of why you started the St. Croix Scenic 50: you fell in love with ultrarunning a couple years ago, and now you live in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They didn’t have an ultramarathon there yet, so you started one.

First, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

M: I grew up in New Jersey traveled a lot and learned to enjoy the outdoors in Vermont, but only recently got involved in organized endurance events.  I was moderately competitive in swimming and water polo through high school.  By college, I was distracted by other activities competing for my attention.  I remained active outdoors: camping, canoeing, and hiking, and eventually moved to Colorado in 2001.  The major catalyst, however, came in the form of a Vizsla puppy named Quiver, a high energy sporting dog that does best with an hour of off-leash play everyday. 

Quiver gave a level of consistency to my outdoor explorations that I hadn’t known in years.  By 2006, I was living 45 minutes south of Leadville, Colorado, home of the Leadville Trail 100 Race Across the Sky.  I crewed for my brother-in-law in the 2006 LT100 and was immediately hooked on the community feeling and energy surrounding ultra-endurance events.  I competed in my first triathlon 2 weeks later and attempted the Leadville 100 in 2007 (DNF @ mile 50).  8 miles was the longest race I had run previously.  (Coincidentally, I ran the 8 miles in St. Croix in the Toast to the Captain race while visiting my brother who lives in St. Croix.  The trip resulted in my moving to the island so my wife could attend the University of the Virgin Islands nursing program.)
From what I learned in 2007 I made my plan for 2008: a fundraiser involving the Collegiate Peaks 50, Bighorn 100, Leadville Silver Rush 50, and the Leadville Trail 100.  (A the plan to move to St. Croix evolved so did my racing schedule; by mid-August and the LT100 I was living in my van with 2 dogs and a cat.  Everything was packed, and my wife and daughter had already flown down to St. Croix.)
Once on St. Croix, I got involved in the local running and triathlon communities, and in the past year and a half ran my first half marathon, marathon and competed in my first half ironman, St. Croix Ironman 70.3.

D: When did you first get the idea to create the St. Croix Scenic 50?

M: The idea already existed among the active community of athletes here, but no one had participated in an ultra.  So, it was just kind of a fantasy kicked around over breakfast after a group swim or ride.  It was in May of last year (after our season down here ended and there were no races scheduled June-Aug) that I decided I was going to bring this idea to life.

D: How long did it take to create?

M: I’ve been working on it off and on since May, 2009.

D: How did you go about choosing the route?

M: I spent a lot of time on Google Earth.  I had a mental list of my favorite views, locations, attractions, etc. and tried to find a 50 mile route that included as many of them as possible while keeping some other factors in mind like traffic, accessibility, logistics of aid stations; and elevation gain/loss is good. 

D: How did you go about obtaining sponsorship?

M: In general, St. Croix is a small community that is very supportive of its athletes and sporting events.  A lot of the resources needed for an ultramarathon were already in place from the numerous other, albeit shorter, races.  The Buccaneer [Resort] has had a great experience hosting the Coral Reef 5-mile and 2-mile Swims each year and was very receptive to another endurance sporting event.  The key was asking; you don’t know until you ask.  Some people/businesses will surprise you, both ways.

D: What was the most difficult hurdle/s in its creation?

M: The day to day of organizing/marketing a race while learning it all as I went. Organizing my first ultramarathon seems to mirror my experience running ultramarathons in that I have just set a goal and worked towards it.  Like in running, there were times I would ‘bonk’ and had to fight through the desire to quit.  Those were the most difficult times to keep going down the to-do list checking off items: email so and so, update the website, etc.  When the big picture was overwhelming I tried to focus on the smaller more immediate steps to take.

A second challenge has been convincing local St. Croix residents that there really are people out there that run 50 miles and farther.

D: Do you have any specific hopes or goals for the St. Croix Scenic 50 beyond growing it and its continuation?

M: I would like to incorporate a fund raising element for local non-profit groups so that there is more community involvement by having local groups adopt an aid station and donating a portion of the proceeds to each group. 

D: Have you started any other races?

M: I am currently serving on the board of the Virgin Islands Triathlon Federation and have been involved in starting two new, small, local events: Island Hoppers – an 8 mile team duathlon and the VI Duathlon National Championships. 

D: Do you hope or plan to start any other races?

M: I have been telling people that the St. Croix Scenic 50 is just one step towards hosting something like an Ultraman triathlon.  We have the 5-mile swim.  We will soon have a 50 miler.  Now we just need ~260 miles of cycling (kind of tricky on a 26 mile long/100 sq. mile island, but doable I think). 

I really enjoy brainstorming race ideas, but once you have an idea the work begins.  At 31, I think I enjoy participating more than organizing at least for the time being.

D: Thanks again, Matt for sharing your time, and good luck with the race!

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