My First ‘Fat Ass’

I started running trails at the beginning of 2014, and I ran my first trail race in March of that year. Since then it’s been five years of trail running. I’ve learned a lot, conquered new distances and new types of events, and have pretty much transitioned to exclusively running trail races. But there was still one thing I hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in until this past weekend: A Fat Ass race.

A Fat Ass race is an unofficial, casual race put on by a group of friends. It’s a low key running event that is ‘invite only’ and is not open to the public. It typically does not have anything that is often seen at a traditional race: no bibs, no awards, no aid stations, etc. Directions or a course map are sometimes provided, but actual course markings are rare. A FA run is a free event. It’s fun and it’s really just an opportunity to get a bunch of people together to run some trails. It’s more of a training run and social event than an actual race. (And I have no clue where the name comes from.)

My friend Donna organized our Fat Ass, which would be a 10 miler at Powhatan State Park in the Richmond area. The stars aligned, as she planned this event on a weekend that I was already going to be in Richmond for a girls weekend. Perfect! On Sunday morning we headed over to the park and prepared to run.

Blissfully unaware.

The route would be two 5.8-ish mile loops, so participants had the option of doing one or two loops. We gathered for a group picture, Donna played the anthem and said a quick prayer, and just after 9 AM we were off and running.

Photo credit: Donna

The group was a mix of runners and walkers, and we spread out along the trail over the first mile. We each had been provided with a state park map with the route marked on it. Donna had also been out marking the turns at trail intersections by making arrows on the ground with sticks and marking a few with flour.

It was overcast and in the upper 30’s during our run, but luckily it wasn’t raining which was nice. However, we’d had a lot of rain in the two weeks leading up to the event. Some of the trails were super muddy and saturated, but others had dried out. Donna’s course had a little bit of everything: smooth trails, roots and rocks, mud, hills, a few creek crossings, and plenty of fun.

My friend Jackie and I stayed together the whole race. Despite the map and trail markings, we took a few wrong turns during the first loop. But we were able to quickly get back on track both times. Before we knew it, loop 1 was already done.

When we finished the first loop, a left turn would take us back to the pavilion where we started but a right turn would send us on the second loop. I think Jackie was a bit tempted to go left, but peer pressure worked like a charm and we were off on our second loop. This time we knew where we were going and ran confidently.

Photo credit: Jackie

I wasn’t sure how I would feel on this run, since I had run 15 miles on Friday morning before driving to Richmond. But other than some calf and Achilles tightness during the first few miles, I felt really good. I’m glad my training for the Yeti 50 Miler is going well so far. There’s a ways to go still, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

The last few miles flew by. One of the last trails we ran on towards the end of the loop was the Turkey Trail. Since my blog name and social media handle is ‘turkey runner’ I couldn’t help but grab a quick photo.

Turkey Runner on the Turkey Trail. 🙂

Before we knew it, we were back at the end of the loop and on our way to the pavilion. Donna cheered us in and even had finisher’s medals for us!

Jackie and I were surprised to find that our other two friends who came with us, Laura and Jo, weren’t back at the pavilion. They were walk/running the loop and it turns out they had gotten lost in the park! Luckily, they showed up shortly after us (which was good since Laura had my car key!), after taking a nice tour of the entire park. Five miles turned in to 8 for them 🙂

Donna and me
Photo credit: Donna

Everyone brought some snacks to contribute for post-race food, and Donna and her husband even had warm mac & cheese and barbecue on the grill for us. Delicious and perfect on a chilly day!

The awesome post-race spread.
Photo: Donna

After mingling for a bit, it was time to head out. Jackie had a plane to catch and I had to make the 3.5 hour drive home. All in all, it was a fun event and a great way to cap off our girls weekend.

2 thoughts on “My First ‘Fat Ass’”

  1. Found this quote:

    The concept of the “fat ass” race was the brainchild of Joe Oakes of the San Francisco Bay Area. Oakes had had to scramble in 1978 to find a Western States qualifier and ended up running solo as a seven-runner team in a relay that extended from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz along Highway 1, a road that hugs the Pacific Coast and offers some spectacular views of the ocean. The next year, Oakes reprised the race but called it the “Recover from the Holidays Fat Ass 50” and staged it as sort of an unofficial adventure run.

    Funny how these things can catch on.


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