Decades ago, huge coal trains steamed up and down these trails. Those trains didn't turn quickly. If you can imagine those locomotives, you can navigate the rail-trail portion of the course--wide, sweeping turns and few elevation changes.
Please check out the fancy, interactive map. If you're not familiar with the course, you should carry zoom-ins of the Lanesboro and Buck's Falls sections. If you're bringing a crew and you want them to be your friend even after your run, give them a good set of maps so they can navigate the roads and find you with or without GPS.
Runners can enter to run 50, 100, or 150 official miles.
Beginning at the Starrucca Viaduct in Lanesboro, PA, the course is a somewhat challenging series of out-and-back laps, mostly on stony, unimproved rail trail. Although four-wheeler traffic has made two nice gravel tracks along much of the course, rocks are impossible to avoid in some places. Because of the many rocky sections, decent trail-running shoes are probably the best option. Gaiters can help to keep out the gravel and cinders.
The overall elevation change is gradual, and there are two dips where trestles (bridges) used to be. Including the hills in Lanesboro and Bucks Falls, the total elevation change is about 1000 feet for each lap. From the start to the turnaround, it's up, and it's down for the return. The course map has a profile graph below it.
You can find additional info and course data, uploaded by a 2012 runner, here and here.
If you're bringing a crew or taking the risk of putting stuff out ahead of time, here are the road crossings. If you're using something like a smartphone, have the maps loaded and available offline, or your GPS may not show you much.
In short, there is practically no cell service at all along the course. A text can sometimes get through, if you keep moving for a while. Cellphones do usually work at the start/finish.
The daytime high temperatures are usually in the range of 70 to 100 degrees F. The day is likely to be humid. During midday hours, significant periods of direct sunlight may be unavoidable. Please bring lots of fluids and salts. In the weeks before the race, heat training or midday running will improve your results.
During the morning, late afternoon, and evening, the trees make it shady. At night, the temperature generally drops about 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit from what it was during the day. Clear nights will be cooler than cloudy ones.
Plan on wearing summer running attire during the day and mild-winter gear for the night. Don't make the big mistake of being in the dark without at least a jacket.
Wildlife encountered in past Viaduct Ultras: bees, whitetail deer, black bears, off-leash dogs, ducks, hawks, turkeys, crows, bluebirds, squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, newts, bats, millipedes, and a skunk that mercifully let runners pass unmarked. Not yet encountered but possible: bobcats, coyotes, owls, rattlesnakes, eagles, and many others.
Although we have yet to have a serious animal-caused injury, carrying pepper spray and bee-sting stick are smart self-defense options. Just don't try to mace the bees.
There are permanent outdoor pit toilets in Luciana Park, near the start/finish. For any unplanned stops along the course, make sure that you're well off the trail and use good wilderness techniques to cover it all up.
GPS coordinates for the start/finish:
Here are some driving directions:
From Thompson, PA (the town nearest to the course turnaround):