Do This: Sierra Club’s Annual One Day Hike (5/4/19)

C & O Canal Towpath
C&O Canal Towpath (Photo Credit: Jeremy Bailey)

Can you hike 31 miles? How about 62?

Now in its 46th year, the Sierra Club will hold their annual One Day Hike (ODH) on May 4th.

The ODH holds the promise of the ultimate challenge, and a chance to test yourself beyond your limits. Plus you can have fun meeting people, enjoying the scenery and eating the food at the support stations. The C&O Canal Towpath scenery is pretty spectacular along many stretches.

The hike ends at the Bolivar Community Center (next to also scenic Harper’s Ferry). (Editor’s Note: Due to a wash-out along the Towpath there may be a change to where the ODH ends this year – unless the repairs can be completed before the hike.) While the 50K version starts in White’s Ferry, the 100K version starts right in Georgetown!

This year the ODH is in May, so pick your poison for a long hike within a single day: 50K or the 100K. You will 100% earn your finisher badge.

Quick tip: Do practice hikes, in the gear you will use. Blisters are the biggest factor for the people who drop-out. See below for more tips.

The event is always well-organized, with volunteers available to assist you or feed you. I’ve personally completed the 50K seven times (2012-2018).

Each support station has snacks, sandwiches, soup, coffee, Gatorade, fruit and more. There is even chili (turkey and veggie), sodas and pizza when you finish.

At the end, consider staying overnight in Harper’s Ferry (or Bolivar) to relax and take the Sunday train back to DC (usually at 11am).

Registration opens on Thursday, February 7th at 5:00pm. Check the One Day Hike Facebook page for more details.

Register here. (opens Feb. 7th).*

Cost is $60. The 50K starts at 10am (White’s Ferry); 100k starts at 3am (Georgetown).

*Note: Usually registration re-opens in mid-April after any cancellations, so if you miss out on one of 350 slots available, usually 40-50 people will cancel before the actual hike, so you’ll still have a chance.

Tips for the 50K

* Training: Do at least 3-4 training hikes between 10-16 miles. More is always better, but ensure one hike is 16 miles or longer (20 miles is good, but it does make for a long day!). Note: If you’re doing the 100K, obviously do longer hikes, at least one 30-40 mile training hike would be the best strategy.
* Attire: Wear the shoes, socks and clothing you’ll use for the ODH on the training hikes. This helps identify blister hot spots and areas of chafing. Many people wear cross-trainers or running shoes. Hiking boots are also fine, but the terrain is flat and you may want to jog a bit.
* Prevent chafing: Use an anti-chafe balm (like Body Glide) in places that rub together.
* Foot care: Use moleskin on your feet before you start on your blister hot spots. Using the Body Glide on your feet also helps. Some people change their socks half-way through.
* Medical: Take a couple Advil at the first support station or after the first 1-2 hours. If you start to get blisters, have them treated at the next support station. Don’t wait, remember blisters are the primary reason people don’t finish the hike.
* On the hike: Try alternating between running and walking for short distances. For example, jog 1 minute and walk 3 minutes for a few miles. It helps to use different muscles. Drink a lot of fluids and eat a lot of salty snacks (also available at the support stations).
* Mood: Have fun!

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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