Dash to forest for off-road race

Runners get started in last year’s Francis Marion Dirt Dash off-road event.

When people think about outdoor resources in Charleston, most will probably think about water first. The ocean, rivers, creeks and marshes are havens for beachgoers, boaters and fishermen.

One resource long overshadowed, other than by hunters and other activities by the camouflage set, is the 250,000-acre Francis Marion National Forest, a green triangle of mostly longleaf and loblolly pines wedged in the northeast corner of metro Charleston.

In the last five years, an ambassador of Francis Marion, a firefighter with the Mount Pleasant Fire Department, has been introducing a different use for the forest: trail running.

“I love getting people from all over the country to run through the woods,” says Chad Haffa, also the founder and CEO of Eagle Endurance LLC.

In 2010, Haffa held his first off-road race, the Francis Marion Dirt Dash Half Marathon and 5K, which was so successful that it led to a range of new races in the woods, including the most recent Wambaw Swamp Stomp 50 Miler Trail Run on the Swamp Fox Passage leg of the Palmetto Trail.

The Dirt Dash returns at 7 a.m. Saturday for its fourth edition. The event features a half marathon, a 7.5-mile race and a 3.4-mile race. Participants meet at the Sewee Visitor Center and will then be transported into the woods for the start of the race.

The fees are $65 for the half, $45 for the 7.5 miler and $30 for the 3.4-miler.

Part of the proceeds from each race is earmarked for a cause. The half helps support the Mount Pleasant Fire Department’s Wildland Firefighting Program, the 7.5 miler to the Medical University of South Carolina Hollings Cancer Center for cancer research in honor of Renee Thomas, and the 3.4 miler to the families of the fallen firefighters of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in Arizona.

The terrain of each course is a tad different. The 3.4-mile course has a bit of a cross country event feel to it. There’s a section of nice grass to run on and then dirt roads. The 7.5-mile course is 100 percent dirt road with a section of the route with grass in the middle of the road so it gives you a good sense of what running a single track trail might feel like.

“Then there is the half marathon route. It is all on dirt roads and it is in great condition,” says Haffa.

“Trail shoes are not a must. Last year’s winner had on Teva sandals and wool socks.”

As of Friday, 215 had registered for the event, including 144 for the half, 44 in the 7.5-miler and 25 in the 5K. Among them are women from Brooklyn, N.Y., and Montana, a man from Colorado and a couple from Massachusetts who are returning for their fourth Dirt Dash.

Also, a unit from the Army National Guard in Florence plans to do a ruck march in respect to the Wounded Warrior Project.


Yogis, circus artists and others who just like to try something new may be interested in attended one or more sessions of an Acro Yoga Workshop with Mateo Daniel, hosted this weekend by The Yoga House of Charleston.

The workshop will be held 7-9 p.m. Friday with a session called “Therapeutic Love Fest,” 12:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday with “Acro Blast Off” geared for beginners and intermediates, and 12:30-3:30 p.m. Sunday with “Next Level Ninja.”

The fees are $40 for individuals and $60 for a pair for Friday and $55 for individuals and $90 for a pair for either Saturday or Sunday, or $100 for an individual and $170 for a pair for combined Saturday and Sunday sessions.

First, what is acro yoga? Basically, it’s a yoga practice that blends elements of acrobatics and performance art and, as a result, offers some of the therapeutic benefits of massage.

Thomas Glenn, co-owner of The Yoga House, invited Daniel to Charleston, in part, because there is growing interest in acro yoga in the area and because some clients highly recommended him.

“While the community of acro yogis is strong and growing, there are no certified instructors in the area,” says Glenn. “It will be important to have Mateo (who is certified) offer informed instruction to help beginners and experienced acro yogis safely learn and practice these fun postures.”

Glenn thinks acro yoga is growing in popularity nationally because it’s a new challenge for yogis to “spice up their practices” and yet both accessible and fun.

“Whether experienced in yoga or whether they have an established inversion practice or not, there is a place for people in acro,” says Glenn, noting the three positions in acro: a base, flyer and spotter.

“Plus, it’s just fun. The fact that we have to work directly with other yogis makes it very natural to make quick friends in acro yoga. We have to establish elements of trust, as well.”

Low Country Racing continues its criterium bicycle race series, Tuesday Night Worlds, on Tuesday evening at 1101 Remount Road in North Charleston. Previous races were held Aug. 13 and 27, with the final race set for Sept. 24.

Beginners in categories 4 and 5 race for 40 minutes starting at 6 p.m. More advanced cyclists, in categories 1, 2 and 3, race for 50 minutes beginning at 6:40 p.m. The fee is $15.

Organizer Myles Lietzke, interviewed after the first one, says the race went well.

“We had about 45 people show up from all skill and age ranges, from pro to beginner and from ages 14 to 60-plus years old. We only had one woman, but I hope that changes,” he says.

As for advice for newbies, Lietzke offers this. “Like anything on a bike there is the risk of a crash,” he says. “The key is to stay within your realm of control and exertion. When you break out of either, you can lose focus or control and bad things can happen.

“Equipment wise, the bikes need to be mass start legal with no forward facing handlebars, so no (time trial) bikes,” he adds.