Elizabeth's Furnace 50km

Elizabeth’s Furnace Fat Ass 50K

Saturday March 14th, 2020 * Starting time - 7:00 a.m.

Due to the very uncertain nature of the developing coronavirus pandemic, and in the interest of being socially responsible, the VHTRC board and the event directors have decided that the Elizabeth Furnace 50k will not be held this Saturday.  While getting out in the woods for a long run will continue to be a great idea, pandemic or no pandemic, we feel that canceling our early spring events, including the EFA 50k, will provide less opportunity in our group settings for the virus to spread among runners and volunteers, mitigating the risk of infections among our trail-running family, their loved ones, and the community as a whole.

If a scheduling opportunity presents itself, and assuming that the pandemic is no longer as socially disruptive months from now, we may look to hold the race sometime in September or October.  We will use the VHTRC club calendar and the usual social media outlets to spread the word if and when that happens. 

Happy trails, and be well!


Entry into the lottery for the 15th annual Elizabeth's Furnace Fat Ass 50k opened on Monday January 27, 2020. The entry remained open for the next week, closing on Monday February 3.  The lottery was run on Tuesday, February 4.  The EFA 50k utilized the VHTRC's lottery system for the 2020 race.  So entry was based on the closing figure for the Dow Jones and the closing direction (up or down) determined the direction the lottery will proceed in.  75 were entrants were taken into the field, and a wait list with the remaining 59 entrants was built.  Preference was given on the wait list to members of the VHTRC, and otherwise the wait list positions were determined by the lottery results.  With so many runners on the initial wait list from the lottery, no runners who did not participate in the lottery will be given admission into the race

As an FYI, entry for the 2019 EFA 50k opened on January 30, to VHTRC members only. It closed in record time after the entry limit of 110 runners was hit (roughly 7 hours after entry opened up that morning).  Hence, the switch in 2020 to a lottery, and removal of the requirement that entrants be VHTRC members to enter (though club membership received priority on the wait list over non-members).

For the 2018 EFA 50k, entry also opened on January 30. Entry in both years was restricted on the first day to active VHTRC club members only. In 2018, we opened entry up to all-comers early on January 31. We reached the field limit in 2018 and closed entry on February 2nd. Ultimately, by the time the 2018 race day arrived, our starting field had winnowed down to the desired 75 runners.

2020 Entrants List

A 50-Kilometer Run in the Elizabeth’s Furnace/Signal Knob area of the George Washington National Forest in the Fort Valley of Virginia.

EFA Logo

The Elizabeth’s Furnace Fat Ass 50K run will be held on Saturday March 14th, 2020 beginning at 7:00 AM. The start and finish will be in the Signal Knob parking lot in the George Washington National Forest (at the northern end of the Fort Valley) off of Route 678, west and south of Front Royal, Virginia.

The Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K course is very challenging, composed primarily of mountainous, technical single-track trails, with some stretches of fire roads. Total elevation gain is approximately 6,070 feet. Since the race is being held in the mountains in late winter, the weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared! Virtually the entire course is forested, so blowdowns and other trail obstacles may be encountered. Under normal conditions there will not be any significant stream crossings, but wet feet and mud are likely on the Mudhole Gap and lower Sherman Gap portions of the run, and in wetter years, on other portions of the course. And the five stream crossings in the Mudhole Gap section may, under unusual circumstances, turn into significant water obstacles (see 2010 event photos). If you are not used to running for extended periods unaided on very technical trail, you may want to pass on this run. 

All runners will need to carry turnsheets describing the various blazed trails that will be followed over the course of the run. The turnsheet may be viewed below – be sure to print it out and bring it with you, as it won’t be available at the start. There will be no other trail markings other than the blazes.

Anyone doing this run should also have the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s Map "G" Massanutten Mountain-North Half (George Washington National Forest, VA and WV, VA-56 southward to US-211). It is available at many area outdoor stores as well as online at the PATC site.  

If you are prone to getting lost on trail runs with unmarked trails, then this run is not for you.  If you are color-blind, this run also may not be for you?  The course is well marked, but it is marked only by the blazing along the trails.

There is only one cut off: Runners arriving at the Elizabeths Furnace aid station at 21.8 miles after 2:30 PM will be asked not to continue – not that anyone getting there after 7-1/2 hours would be likely to try to continue, especially with the evil climb on the pink trail up to Shermans Gap looming.  That final loop of Shermans to Shawl gaps, with a particularly rocky and rolling section of ridge trail connecting them, takes most mid and back of the pack runners close to the 3 hours to negotiate.  It is not easy - but it is great training and big fun!

This Fat Ass event will have relatively limited aid. Much of this course is inaccessible except on the trails at this time of year, since the Forest Service has to close some of their unpaved roads during the winter. The runners will provide the aid. Each runner in the field will receive an e-mail early on race week to confirm his or her intent to run EFA, and to assign the runner an aid station item to bring to the race start. Items assigned will be basic - Gatorade, soda, chips, cookies, etc.

Aid stations will be located at two points on the course. The first aid station will be at Mudhole Gap (mile 10.3). This aid will be hiked in by the volunteers. The second aid station will be in the Elizabeths Furnace parking lot (mile 21.8). We also traditionally have some nice grub at the finish in the Signal Knob parking lot, courtesy of the VHTRC.

If you can’t run but want to come out and play anyway, we would be happy to get some help from volunteers. Ideally, we would have a few volunteers hike in to the Mudhole Gap trail head to man that aid station; additional volunteers to help at the Elizabeths Furnace aid station (right next to a parking lot, so no hiking required here); and a couple of volunteers to handle the finish line with the RDs.  Please contact Quatro Hubbard or Mike Bur if you have any questions about the Elizabeth’s Furnace 50K.

Entry into the 2020 lottery opened on January 27 at 9 AM and closed on February 3 at 9 PM.

Volunteers in 2020

  • Mike Bur
  • Quatro Hubbard
  • Dave Woll - Mudhole Gap
  • Tom Corris - Mudhole Gap
  • Bob Phillips - Mudhole Gap
  • Kevin Bligan - Mudhole Gap/Signal Knob Finish
  • Carl Bligan - Mudhole Gap/Signal Knob Finish
  • Carrie Drummond - The Furnace
  • Eric McGlinchey - The Furnace
  • Quinn and Critter! - The Furnace/The Slackline
  • Leah Ginn - The Furnace
  • Ryan Brown - Mudhole Gap/Finish
  • Danny Gracias - Signal Knob Finish

Directions to the start at Signal Knob:

From the DC Beltway (I-495) take 1-66 West approx. 60 miles to US 340 south (Exit 6, - the second Front Royal exit). Follow US 340 south 1.1 miles to the traffic light at VA Route 55. Turn right onto VA 55 and follow it west for 5.2 miles to Waterlick. Turn left (south) onto VA Route 678. Follow VA 678 1.8 miles into George Washington National Forest, and a total of 3.4 miles to the marked entrance of the Signal Knob parking lot, located on the right-hand side of the road. Plenty of parking spaces are available in this lot. Map


Turnsheet [pdf]