105 racers started the Looking Glass 50 miler. Just 63 finished. Emily Hutchins was 1 of them.


Conditions were horrendous at last weekend’s Looking Glass 50 Miler.

The race’s signup page describes the course as “an extremely scenic tour” of North Carolina’s Pisgah Forest. But runners last weekend had to cope with rain, wind, mud and bone-chilling temperatures in the 30s on top of the 8,900 feet of elevation gain.

Multiple racers were rescued off the mountain for hypothermia and other conditions. Many other veteran racers chose to stop after 25 miles.

Out of 105 racers, only 63 people made it to the end —  only 12 of those finishers were women.

Montgomery County’s Emily Hutchins was one them. After 13 hours and 41 minutes she crossed the finish line, 19 minutes ahead of the race cutoff.

“It was the hardest challenge of my life. Many times I wanted to quit … but I kept telling myself how grateful I am to run in these wild, rugged mountains,” she said. “I’m still in awe that I actually finished it. I think it was the happiest moment of my life when I got to hug my husband.”

Emily, an experienced runner with a half dozen ultra finishes before Looking Glass, also organizes and leads a weekly track workout every Wednesday from 6-7 a.m. at the Virginia Tech track. Join the Blacksburg RunFit group on Facebook for details on how to get out and train with her.

Get to know Emily Hutchins

Hometown: I grew up in Craig County, Virginia. Currently live with my husband and dog, Huck in Long Shop, Virginia in Montgomery County.

Age: 35

Job: Assistant Dean of Advancement for the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech

When and why did you start running? I started running in high school for the Craig County Rockets. I ran cross-country and track (800m, 1600m, 3200m). My fastest mile was 5:58 in high school and I have a goal in 2019 to beat that time. I started running because I loved the community, the teams, but also the fact that it’s still an individualized sport. I continued running for fun throughout college and began trail running in my late 20s  and 30s. I started running ultras about 3 years ago.

Most frustrating running experience? My first 50k was High Bridge Ultra in 2016. In the first mile, I was fiddling with my hydration pack and I ended up severely twisting my right ankle. Everyone around me gasped … I looked at my friend Elizabeth with a look of despair and I decided to run the race. Probably not the smartest move, but I ended up running the whole thing on a twisted ankle. I got a great time of 5:37, but my recovery was certainly prolonged!

Mileage/training time in a typical week? 25-35 miles.

Who inspires and/or motivates you? I am inspired by all the racers I meet during ultras. There are runners from all walks of life, all different ages and they are all strong in their own unique ways. I do follow some elite ultra-runners like Sally McRae, who I find incredibly inspiring. I am also motivated by all my running buddies from the NRV, Roanoke and beyond.

Advice for new runners? Just get out there. You don’t need fancy gear, and we are so lucky to have an incredible trails in our backyard. There are several group runs that you can get connected with, such as Blacksburg Striders and the Runabout Sports community. I highly recommend cross training to prevent running injuries. I do a lot of yoga, biking, track intervals and gym time to complement my trail running pursuits.

Favorite running routes? Pandapas trails are my go-to spot. My favorite loop is running up Gateway trail, down Horse Nettle, up Snakeroot and back down Gateway. There are a variety of loops you can do out there! I also enjoy running at Mountain Lake, sections of the Appalachian Trail and Carvins Cove.

Favorite race? Even though it was the most challenging, I’d have to say the Looking Glass 50 miler. I also really enjoyed Highlands Sky 40 miler in Canaan, WV.

Trails or roads? 100 percent trails! The only time I run roads is if I’m traveling, or need to give my dog some exercise.

Any running superstitions or rituals? In terms of rituals, I must drink coffee as soon as I wake up before any run. I also like routines and I organize different reoccurring activities, such as a weekly track interval every Wednesday from 6-7 a.m. at the Virginia Tech track. Join the Blacksburg RunFit group on Facebook for details!

Fact about you that very few people know? I worked in Yellowstone National Park during a summer in college and met my now husband, Jeremy at a geyser! I immediately fell for that charming southerner.

Running goals for 2019? BigHorn Ultra – 50 miler in Wyoming in June 2019.

Emily and Huck.


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