Florida: Dances with Dirt Green Swamp Marathon

DWD Green Swamp
Along the trail.

Dances with Dirt Green Swamp Marathon in the Green Swamp Wilderness near Dade City, FL. DWD no longer offers this race, so I’m again skipping the details.

I was already planning my first 50k in April and knew a trail marathon would be good training. The bad influences who suggested I train with them for a marathon instead of another half (“you can quit anytime!”) had proposed a race in Nevada/state 5, so I was already thinking about maybe trying this 50 states thing. With those two thoughts in mind, I found a flattish race with a long cutoff in a place that had cheap flights and cheaper car rentals. This race looked like a good bet with multiple distances up to 50 miles and therefore a long cutoff time. We stayed in a hotel in nearby Dade City and drove the 20 minutes to the start on back country dirt roads.

Race report: This was my first trail race longer than 10 miles and I was worried that I would get lost and/or not be able to handle the terrain. What does “technical” really mean anyway?? How sandy is sandy? I found everything I could about the course and started studying. I watched videos posted in previous years and committed the intricately color coded maps posted by DWD to memory. Trail running veterans can probably guess what happened at the race briefing 10 minutes before we started. The RD explained that there were some reroutes because sections of the course were too muddy.

DWD Green Swamp
Tricky section for an inexperienced trail runner.

I learned two important lessons here: the course can and often does change at the last minute, and it’s probably not going to be exactly 26.2 if it’s on trail. By the third water crossing I had stopped taking off my shoes and socks and instead ran right through the puddles. By the 10th mile, I had learned from others around me what gaiters were and why you would wear calf sleeves in high grass. From miles 22 to 25, I learned the history of some shoes called Hokas and that Hoka lovers may have even more intense feelings for their shoes than Newton lovers (this was in 2015). It was great and I was hooked.

Off trail:

  • Southwest flights to Orlando will be packed with families around spring break.
  • If you ask someone to travel with you to a race (we’ll call him an athletic supporter), make sure your AS is aware that it may take longer than expected for you to finish. It may even be an hour longer than your worst pace scenario because the course is a mile or four longer than you expected.
  • We went to not so nearby Clearwater Beach after the race to make the most of the “seeing the country” part of this 50 states goal.

    Clearwater Beach
    How to bribe the athletic supporter.

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