By Ethan Nahté
Marathon runners will be hitting the trail for the 24th Athens Big Fork Trail Marathon Saturday, Jan. 7. Although the marathon is over a week away, youth hunters might want to be made aware in case they need to alter their hunting plans for both the safety of all involved, as well as the difficulty hunting with 500 feet repeatedly beating a path through the forest.
Event organizers Arkansas Ultra Running (AURA want to notify local hunters 200-plus runners will be traversing the Athens Big Fork (ABF) Trail on the same weekend as the Youth Hunt.
AURA president and ABf director Stacey Shaver-Matson said, “The event has always been the first Saturday in January and has never overlapped with a scheduled hunt until now.”
AURA does have a USDA Forest Service Permit for that date. They have warned the runners signed up for the marathon and are requiring all runners and volunteers to wear bright orange, red, or yellow. However, they want to take every precaution they can in order to ensure runner safety.
The free event will be held on Saturday, Jan. 7 from 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Although there is no entry fee, a $20 donation per runner is encouraged to support the Big Fork Community Center and to cover the cost of aid station supplies.
According to the official site abftrailmarathon.com, the 250-runner limit has been met and registration is full. In an effort to be green, ABF will be cupless this year for aid stations and the post-race party.
The course utilizes the roads Hwy. 8, Polk County Road 83, and Forest Road B15. Registered runners begin at the Big Fork Community Center, run to the Athens Big Fork Northern Trailhead, run the full length of the Athens Big Fork Trail to the Southern end, turn right off the trail and traverse a half mile on Forest Rd B23F to the aid station.
Runners turn around and retrace their steps back to the Big Fork Community Center where they will have food catered by IDC BBQ.
Shaver-Matson said, “AURA is grateful to the towns of Big Fork, Mena, and Athens for hosting us and our runners. This tradition of testing our metal is something those of us in the trail community look forward to every year.
All donations brought in by the event goes back into the community that serves them.
Check out runarkansasrun.com for more information on the Ultra Trail Series, which encompasses a number of AURA races and fun runs. Interested runners can also find them on Facebook by searching for AURA Ultra Trail Series.