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Volunteers prep for Frogtown trail race
Frogtown WEB 1
Volunteers Ken Key, left, and Paul Chernak help clear a tree that fell over the running trail for the upcoming Frogtown Trail Challenge. - photo by Autumn McBride

More than three years ago, several avid runners blazed a trail through woods and streams on a large plot of land in northwestern Forsyth.

The ditch jumping, log hopping, creek crossing path became known as the Frogtown Trail Challenge, a popular off-road run that has become a fall tradition.

Chris Garmon, whose family owns the land, said he and his brother started the race “on a whim” as a fundraiser.

“We’ve always felt like it was a great resource and we’ve been blessed to have it,” Garmon said.

Since his family first acquired the land in the 1800s, he said, they’ve been known to donate portions of the land and the timber from its trees.

“Throughout the years, it’s been our way of giving back to the community,” Garmon said. “This is an event we’re very proud of, but at the same time, it’s very humbling to put it on.”

This year’s event will benefit Christian Runners, as it has the past two years, as well as Forsyth County Community Connection.

Race co-director Kelli Sliwinski, who works with Christian Runners, said she was one of those the Garmons invited to chart the original course.

“It was like running with little boys on a playground,” Sliwinski said.

Since the first run in 2009, Frogtown has grown in popularity, with the field increasing to up to 800 runners for this year’s event.

Participants can choose either a 4-mile or 10-mile challenge on race day, Oct. 8.

Registration will continue until the capacity is reached, Sliwinski said, adding that she’s sure they’ll hit 800 before race day.

Frogtown has sold out the past two years, she said. For this year, sign-ups are nearing 600.

Sliwinski said it’s the friendly but challenging nature of the course that draws runners from near and far.

“We’re always hoping to exceed expectations,” she said. “They walk away going wow, not only was it a great event to run and be physically challenged, but they walk away feeling like it was an overall great experience.”

Preparing for a race of this magnitude takes much preparation, including hours of labor on the land.

The first of two major workdays clearing and setting up the trail took place Aug. 20, and the second was Aug. 27.

Nicole Morgan, executive director of the local Community Connection, said it was a “great way to spend a Saturday volunteering, meeting with really great people and getting out and enjoying nature a little bit.”

She added that volunteering gives potential runners a chance to get a preview of the trail.

Community Connection, which is coordinating the volunteers, is also a beneficiary of the race.

Proceeds will go toward programming for children and families in crisis, as well as the Hands of Forsyth volunteer initiative, Morgan said.

She’ll be at Frogtown the night before the race, when runners are invited to camp on site. On race day, Morgan will tackle her first 4-mile challenge.

“It’s a good time for a good cause overall,” she said. “We’re really thankful to the organizing group … They put a lot of effort into it to make it a real thoughtful race and they do it with tremendous kindness and joy in their hearts.”