By Melissa Blosser, Assistant Editor
Don’t be surprised to see ‘No Vacancy’ signs around town and groups of slender folks sporting Garmin watches, Nike hats, arm socks and running attire.
The Bizz Johnson Trail Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10K all take place this weekend, October 6th and 7th.
The marathon is a big draw for runners, and it’s a tourist attraction which has brought celebrities like Alanis Morissette to Susanville to take a stab at the Boston Marathon qualifier.
According to Runner’s World Magazine, in a 2007 article by Bob Cooper, the buzz over the Bizz all started when race director Eric Gould set out to locate the perfect trail, one that could generate some of the fast times of a road marathon.
When he came upon a description of the gradually descending, 27-mile long, Bizz Johnson Trail in a rails-to-trails book, he knew he’d found the perfect course.
The challenge then became attracting people to the event.
“It was tough to convince runners to come this far,” says Gould, who lives in the Bay Area, a five-hour drive from the race site, but he succeeded.
In 2004, the race’s inaugural year, Bizz drew 486 participants to Susanville for the marathon, half-marathon, 10K, and 5K, including top ultramarathoner Scott Jurek.
“Once people run it, they tell their friends about it,” says Gould.
The Bizz Johnson Marathon begins at Mason Station and travels through the rugged, beautiful landscape of the Susan River Canyon. The first few miles of the course climb 280 feet through the forest to Westwood Junction, then it’s downhill to the finish at Susanville, with a 1300-foot descent over the final 20 miles.
The trail follows the route of the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, built-in 1914.
In the final 7 miles of the course the trail enters the canyon, crossing the river ten times on railroad bridges.
Four miles from the finish you’ll pass through two old railroad tunnels, 800 feet and 450 feet in length.
Around every turn of this marathon is a post card worthy sight. The finisher’s medal is a wooden train whistle with the Bizz Johnson logo burned into the side.
For more information about the marathon visit http://www.coastaltrailruns.com/bizz_johnson.html.