Howland’s Neck Ache Introduces Timed Racing to NEPA
This spring, the Howland’s Neck Ache Ultramarathon will make its debut at the Howland Preserve in Tunkhannock. This timed event will offer 12-hour and 24-hour options, where runners will try to log as many miles as possible within the time limit.
The course is a three-mile loop through the meadows and forests. Runners can start and end each loop at their own pace. The competitors who complete the most laps will win.
“It’s more like an all-you-can-run. So you can go out and have a blistering pace for six hours, take an hour off and go back out for five if you’re on the 12-hour circuit,” explained Dan King, one of the race directors. “Unlike a backyard ultra, where everybody’s got to stick together every hour, this just lets you do your own thing, really make your own race, set your own pace.”
The race kicks off on April 9, marking the first ultramarathon in Wyoming County and the first race of this format in NEPA.
The race showcases NEPA’s beautiful Endless Mountains.
King and Albert Propst, race directors and founders of Ultra Marathon Boys Racing, were searching for a location for the race when they heard about Howland Preserve. The 669-acre property is located on the Vosburg Neck, a dramatic oxbow bend on the Susquehanna River. The location immediately blew them away with its natural beauty and well-maintained trails.
The course will begin at the preserve’s historic barn and follow the Vista Trail. The wooded singletrack trail climbs to a scenic overlook, which offers sweeping views of the rural farmland and the river below. The course continues down the hill and ends back at the barn, clocking in a little over 400 feet of elevation gain.
The idea started with two friends and one passion for running.
King and Propst first began running in 2012, when they competed in Tough Mudder competitions. But things really clicked when they watched a documentary about the Barkley Marathons, an extremely challenging ultramarathon in Tennessee.
“That kind of opened our eyes, realizing not only that there’s a world out there doing incredible physical feats, but also that it was available to everyday people,” remembered King. “We can go out and really start having serious adventures.”
King and Propst started ramping up their training in spring 2019, hitting the trails at Lackawanna State Park and exploring NEPA’s country roads. A goal to finish a marathon quickly turned into a goal to finish a 100-mile race.
“We run together. We train together. We race together when possible. But when we’re racing together, we’re really not interested in competing against one another,” said Propst. “That’s a philosophy that’s very, very rare.”
The two friends directed their first race, the Dalton Dash 5-Miler, last Memorial Day. The successful event got them thinking. They’d traveled far and wide to attend ultramarathons—why not host a long-distance race right here in NEPA? In the coming years, they hope to not only grow Howland’s Neck Ache, but also to create a race series in NEPA.
Howland’s Neck Ache welcomes everyone from elite runners to first-time ultramarathoners.
Online registration is open now until April 6. The race has already drawn entrants from NEPA and beyond, including runners from other states and Canada.
The top overall male and female finishers in the 12- and 24-hour races will receive $7 for each lap that they complete. The first runners to complete milestones like the marathon, 50K, 100K and 100 miles will also receive prizes from local businesses.
If you’ve never run an ultramarathon, the challenge might sound crazy. But actually, a timed event can be a great entry point for runners who have been considering an ultra.
“Timed races are a low pressure, high opportunity race,” said King.
Runners can go at their own pace and take rests when they need to. You don’t even have to run the whole time—some entrants will be hiking the course.
“We really want to see people who are breaking those barriers. Bring a tent—there’s going to be a big section for tents and crew spots. Go to sleep for a couple hours. Get up. Come do it, and keep moving,” said Propst. “We’d love to see people step into this.”