The first-ever half-marathon race to happen in Cullman County is about to take place at St. Bernard Prep in Cullman, on the renovated and newly-created trails of St. Bernard Abbey, Saturday, March 9, at 7:30 a.m.
For the past three years Cross Country Coach William Calvert, and noted “Trail Boss” Roger Blalock, along with countless other volunteers, have recovered and restored existing trails through the Abbey’s 800 acres of Treasure Forest and constructed at least five more miles, doubling the trails in size.
The Trails of St. Bernard Half-Marathon will showcase the expanded scenic trail system of St. Bernard Abbey. Calvert said the old trails and forest roads have been improved, and the new trails will take participants into the more remote areas of the 120-year old campus.
Blalock, the volunteer “Trail Boss,” has been the catalyst in improving the old trails and dozing the new ones. Along with a core group of volunteers that include St. Bernard coaches, teachers, parents and local runners, Blalock has added about five new miles of trails to the system through the use of a small bulldozer and back-breaking work with shovels, rakes, picks and axes.
Calvert said Roger loves the outdoors, and building trails is a passionate hobby for him. “We certainly appreciate all of Roger’s hard work and dedication. He has built some beautiful scenic trails through streams with waterfalls and huge boulder rocks. “
There have been several water bars put in place to re-route water off the trails to nearby streams. “Conservation of land has been a major concern in this process,” Blalock said. These trails are solid, but according to Blalock they aren’t finished yet. “Because of erosion, some sections of the older trails will be totally rebuilt to preserve them. That said, these trails are in great shape, some of the best in the southeastern states.”
Blalock’s experience with operating heavy equipment and with engineering the building of trails has been a blessing for our program at St. Bernard. “Back in the 80’s, Roger was involved in the layout and building of trails in the Bankhead Forest,” Calvert said.
While running or walking the trails, one can notice the dirt which has been removed from underneath one of the huge boulders by the creek. “We hit charcoal and feel sure that this could have been a perfect Native American home years ago,” Blalock said. “It was perfect since they loved facing south and near the water, but as the need for more dirt increased, it has been pulled from underneath the huge bluff rock.”
The wooded 13.1 mile course has ten unique bridges with names like No Hands Bridge and Gear Up that span some of the stream crossings. Rustic wooden signs nailed to cedar posts with names like Lost Creek Trail, Rock Quarry and Little Magnolia point runners and hikers in the right direction. The course of rolling hills and mostly-hardwood forest adds to the challenge but also to the beauty of the trails.
Calvert said the half-marathon route will challenge runners, but is a fair course with good footing. “It’s a great course for first-time trail racers, and will be a fast course for the more experienced.”
Awards will be presented to the overall male and female winners, Masters male and female winners, and grand masters male and female winners, as well as medals to the top three finishers for male and female in each age group.
Age groups are 19 & under, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60 and over.
A pre-registration fee of $40 is due on or before 3/01/2013; the fee is $45 after 3/1/2013. To register online go to www.raceit.com/Register?event=17275 or to register by mail, print a registration form at www.stbernardprep.com.