PEC Staff & Friends Take on the 2022 GAP Relay

Early morning on the GAP between Whitsett and Smithton.

After a two-year hiatus from participating in the in-person GAP Relay, Team PEC got back on the trail October 14 to run the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh’s South Side. PEC is the sustainability sponsor for the relay, organized by P3R, and has participated in the event since it began in 2018. Our eight-person team had a mix of past participants and those new to the event.

The relay is split into 24 legs, which vary in length from about 2.5 to 11.5 miles. Each runner on the PEC team ran three legs over 24 hours. The Great Allegheny Passage travels through a sliver of the Maryland panhandle, before crossing the southern border of Pennsylvania. Over the course of the relay, runners experience a whole range of Pennsylvania landscapes, from remote sections of the Laurel Highlands to the industrial riverfront of the Mon Valley. Since the race started at 3 pm this year, we spent much of the first half of the race running in the dark and got to enjoy beautiful starry skies and lots of nighttime wildlife sightings (pheasants, possums, countless deer, and a trail cat!).

“The GAP relay was one of the most challenging endeavors I’ve taken on recently, but it came with a few unanticipated joys. The most unexpected aspect of the relay was how much I enjoyed my middle-of-the-night leg,” said Program Coordinator for Trails and Recreation and first-time race participant Alexandra Long. “Running in the 1:00 am darkness was delightfully peaceful – what a great time to dig into deep thought, when the world is asleep around you. Will midnight running become my new hobby? Who knows! Would I run the GAP relay again? Certainly!”

PEC President Davitt Woodwell cooked dinner for the team at the first major relay exchange in Deal, PA.

Traveling the GAP on foot is a wonderful way to experience the landscape. I loved having the time to read signs, notice individual plants and animals, and interact with other trail users. We were lucky to have clear weather, which helped bring out the already spectacular fall colors along the trail. Driving between the relay exchanges was also a special experience – we took backroads for most of the distance from Cumberland, and we passed through many towns that I’d heard of but hadn’t had the chance to visit. Even with some chilly temperatures overnight and lack of sleep, it was an unforgettable experience for all team members, new and old.

“Despite needing to use my hands to lift my legs into the van by the end of the race, I had a blast as a first-timer on the PEC GAP Relay team! Running at all hours of the day and night was a strange new experience and an interesting way to take in the GAP trail. I’m grateful for all the trail groups and volunteers who came out to make sure we were taken care of,” said Grants and Fundraising Manager Molly Kestner.

You can learn more about Pennsylvania trails and outdoor recreation opportunities here.