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flag over MMT

A flag hangs over a section of Meeks Mountain Trails at Hurricane.

When Matt Stevens founded Hurricane Trail Racing in 2020, his vision for the nonprofit organization included a series of competitive and open races spread throughout the year.

That vision has slowly taken shape. This year saw a series of four races at Meeks Mountain Trails, ending with the Haunted Half on Saturday.

At 8 a.m., racers gathered at the “bowl,” a large, open field across the railroad tracks and up an access road at Meeks Mountain Trails. Conditions were muddy, in part because of the rain, but also because dirt is being moved for the construction of a permanent shelter at the site.

As the half-marathon runners gathered at the starting line, Stevens went over the race details. “This is a challenging course,” he said. “I told somebody last night that if you’re not challenged by this course, then come find me, and I will sponsor you. We’ll race all over the country.”

Thirty minutes later, Stevens launched the 10K runners, and after them the 5Kers showed up — some in costume. There were Halloween touches along the courses as they wound through the woods.

Also stationed along the trail were memorials to the 13 service members killed by a suicide bomber at the airport in Afghanistan. Each memorial had an American flag, a picture and bio of one of the slain soldiers. One runner described the memorials as “very moving.”

Between races, Stevens said plans are to repeat the same series next year.

“We’re going to reset for 2022. We’re start off with the Twisted Twigs Race in April, the Old Glory Race in June. September will see the Honor Race again – although who we honor next year is yet to be determined, and October will see the Haunted Half, or something like it,” Stevens said.

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The Honor Race was conceived to honor local heroes. The first in 2020 honored Nicholas Sheperty, a Green Beret assigned to the West Virginia Army National Guard Special Forces unit. Sheperty was killed in a training accident in Virginia. This year’s Honor Race was a fundraiser for the Long Live Will Washburn Foundation. Will Washburn, a student and athlete at Hurricane Middle School, died at age 14 in April.

Hurricane Trail Racing also sponsored “Laps for Cassie” last December – a fundraiser for the family of Charleston Police Department Officer Cassie Johnson, who was killed in the line of duty.

Each race has three distances to choose from: half-marathon, 10K and 5K. The group also offers a “Kids’ K” at each race. The kids’ races range from 1.5 to 2 miles.

In the competitive categories, the runners race for points. At the end of the season, the top three men and women with the most points receive cash payouts (based on percentages). The open category is non-competitive. First aid stations are set up along the courses.

For more information about Hurricane Trail Racing, go to the group’s website at hurricanetrailracing.org or visit their Facebook page.

Meeks Mountain Trails is a system of trails behind Hurricane City Park, designed for trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers. Construction on the trails began in 2018 by the Meeks Mountain Trail Alliance, with support from the City of Hurricane and private landowners. When finished, the system will include 26 miles of trails; about 19 miles are open now.

For more information, go to meeksmountaintrails.org.

Metro Editor Robert Saunders can be reached at bsaunders@hdmediallc.com.

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