By Cheril Vernon
Messenger Copy Editor
GRAPELAND – In just a few weeks, an estimated 300 people will trek through Mission Tejas State Park for the Mission Tejas Trail Run on Saturday, Sept. 9. The trail traverses a route along the outskirts of the Davy Crockett National Forest.
“We put on 17 races as a company. A large majority – 80 percent – are at state parks. We like to support the parks and get people in the parks,” Trail Racing Over Texas race organizer Rob Goyen told The Messenger. “(Parker Ranger) Josh Crawford from Mission Tejas reached out to us about putting on a race at the park. At the time, we were preparing to move some races to the Dallas-Fort Worth and East Texas region. After looking at the park, we determined we would put the race on the 2017 calendar.”
Trail races include a variety of distances from 5K, 10K, 25K and 50 K for those participating.
“We have distances for everyone. For example, we may have someone who will run a 50K, but their spouse or kids don’t run that route, so families can find a distance that works for them,” Goyen said. “We also have a long cut-off time for trail runs — 15 hours. Everyone gets the same amount of time, up to 13 to 14 hours to finish. It takes the stress off people who want to walk and want to experience the trail. It’s a quite a bit different than running the roads.”
The 50K run is considered an “ultra run” because it’s in the 50 kilometers niche, Goyen said.
“The top 50K runners will finish in about five hours. The middle of the pack can run it in about 9 hours. And the bottom of the pack will finish in as much time as they need, probably 12 hours,” Goyen said.
Mission Tejas State Park Ranger Josh Crawford said the park staff is excited about the opportunity to host the race.
“We are excited to host an event like this that will attract a new audience to the park, as well as giving locals a new event to be a part of in East Texas. Bringing another race to our backyard here is helpful to people as well, because you don’t have to drive to Dallas or Houston to participate,” Crawford said. “It’s also a healthy option for people who want to get out and exercise, but do it in a setting that’s a local state park.”
Crawford said it should be a fun event for everyone involved.
“Being a part of the very first one is something special both for staff and participants. We only hope it grows from here,” he said.
The majority of the racers are from the Houston, Dallas and El Paso areas.
“We have racers spread out all over the state. We are based in Katy, just west of Houston, so we have a large contingency from this area,” Goyen said. “I expect to see 200-plus runners coming not from this region that follows our races from race to race. Our hope is we can get locals in a 50-mile region to support the race and get the opportunity to run the trails. We want to get as many locals out to the race as possible.”
Some of their races can bring in as many as 700 to 900 racers, Goyen said.
For the Mission Tejas Trail Rice, awards will be presented to the top three overall men/women in the 50K, 25K, 10K and 5K. Awards also will be presented to the top two masters (age 50 or older) in the 50K, 25K, 10K and 5K. All distances will get a medal. Every runner will get a shirt or race swag that they choose.
“Our medals are handcrafted wood medals, which is unique,” Goyen said.
For those who participate in multiple trail rruns with Trail Racing over Texas races, the organization offers a point-based system where the points accumulate through the calendar year. At the end of the year, awards or incentives of different kinds are presented to different age groups, according to Goyen.
The run organizers have reserved the group camping area for the participants, and aid stations will be available along the routes.
“We will have tent camping on Friday and Saturday night. Lots of people who do trail runs and ultra running like to do tent camping. It makes it special. They get here late at night, set up a tent. That’s a very normal within trail racing,” Goyen said. “Trail racing in general is not very competitive. It’s a lot more comfortable, lot more community.”
As for the weather, Goyen expects it will be hot.
“We race in any weather. We put the event on rain or shine,” Goyen said. “I think with the rain that we will be getting from the hurricane, it may be a little cooler, a little wetter. I also think with this course that it won’t be that much of a difference, because it’s a flat, rolling course, with a lot of drainage.”
To register online for the race, visit the race website at http://www.trailracingovertexas.com/mission-tejas-trail-run. Packets can be picked up from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 at the start/finish area at Mission San Francisco de los Tejas. Packets also can be picked up from 5 to 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9 at the start/finish area. The runs will start at 6 a.m.
“You can register online through the Friday night before the race, or you an wait until the race day,” Goyen said.
According to the Trail Racing Over Texas website, the organization is “a trail racing organization that specializes in providing the best trail racing experience to all of our runners,” devoted to bringing more awareness to our Texas State Parks and Wildlife Department by placing our races primarily in Texas State Parks. Our races are not only implemented to challenge our runners physically and mentally, but to share to beauty and charm that our Texas State Parks have to offer.”
Mission Tejas State Park is located at 120 State Park Road 44 in Grapeland. The park is located 21 miles northeast of Crockett and 12 miles west of Alto on State Highway 21. The entrance tot he park is in Weches, where Park Road 44 intersects with State Highway 21.