Trail Runner Alison Hulsey Promotes Protection of the Cahaba River

Image Caption: Alison Hulsey crosses the finish line as the female winner, and fifth-place overall winner, of the 2010 Cahaba River Ramble 10-mile trail race on June 5. Photo by J.M. Cifonie. Alison Hulsey wins races, but it’s the chance to help protect the precious Cahaba River that, for her, is the true victory.

Each June for the past five years, runners have gathered at the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge near West Blocton for the Cahaba River Ramble, hosted by the Cahaba River Society. The two-event race was held this year on June 5, with a 5K on a dirt-and-gravel road and a 10-mile course that crosses the river and continues on wooded trails. The course was designed in part by Alison, this year’s 10-mile female winner and fifth-place overall winner.

The Cahaba River Ramble lures runners from all over Alabama and nearby states with the chance to see the rare Cahaba Lily on the last leg of its blooming season. “People come back every year,” says Cahaba River Society development director Monica Carmichael. “They just love it.” This year, runners were lucky. Lilies stretched across the width of the river in several spots along the course.

When designing the course along with her late husband, Shane, who worked for the Cahaba River Society, Alison consulted with Steve Miller, manager of the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, on accessibility of trails in the backcountry and logistics of holding an event at the somewhat remote site in Bibb County. “We wanted to make sure people got experience our secret spot and the beauty of the Cahaba River,” Alison says.

The most important part of the course’s design, for Alison, is that “it runs past four or five major stands of Cahaba Lilies.” Other considerations were including varying terrain and removing ambiguity, so runners would “take their time enjoying it rather than worrying about route finding.” She didn’t make it all easy on the runners, though. A grueling hill call “The Equalizer” was added to the end of the course. “Although I dread it every year,” Alison admits, “I keep coming back for more.”

Alison loves to promote both the sport of trail running and the protection of the Cahaba River in this one fun event. Learn more atwww.cahabariversociety.org. Find information and directions to the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge, which is open to the public, at www.fws.gov/cahabariver/. You can also find more about trailing running in Birmingham in the article in our Green Living section, including some of Alison’s favorite trails: Jemison Trail in Mountain Brook and the trails of Oak Mountain State Park.

By Kelly M. Smith

Alison Hulsey crosses the finish line as the female winner, and fifth-place overall winner, of the 2010 Cahaba River Ramble 10-mile trail race on June 5. Photo by J.M. Cifonie.

 

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