Pandora's Box of Rox is a trail race offering marathon (26.2 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles), and 10K (6.2 miles) distances. The event location is at Reveille Peak Ranch on 1300 acres in the Llano Uplift just outside of Burnet Texas. Reveille boasts 62 miles of trails over rugged granite outcrops and domes similar to Inks Lake and Enchanted Rock. What is unique about this marathon is that it is almost entirely single-track trail and it has an eight-hour cutoff, making it a great first marathon for those new to trail running.
I had a wonderful time for the better part of five or six days wandering around out there, looking for the most entertaining route in a phenomenal playground full of rocks and trees. Reveille Peak Ranch is a lovely place, almost idyllic. At one point, I ran onto a granite dome and didn't leave it again until a mile or more later, albeit I was moving in a circuitous route much like an ant foraging for food. Running between tall boulders and across a rock surface as smooth as a dinner table made me feel so small. All the creeks looked like bubbling brooks, although I am sure it’s not always like that mid-summer here in central Texas. Still, it was nice to hear the running water and waterfalls making their music across the rocks. I suspect that even on a hot day, this place is still a joy to run through.
I was curious about the logistics of the Ranch for race management, and I was pleasantly surprised with all the excellent structures and facilities that are available. There are many amenities: a covered pavilion that seats 500 with a full-service commercial kitchen, bathrooms, showers, a swimming pool, six RV hookups with water and electricity, 250 primitive camping sites, and parking for 4,000 cars. Vol Montgomery, the owner of Reveille Peak Ranch, has been more than accommodating, easy to work with, and an all-round good guy, so having the race here was basically a slam-dunk.
I’ve been directing trail races for more than ten years, and I am currently directing 11 trail races scattered about central Texas, so I have a good feel for what works and what doesn't. Longer races, which go all day and all night, are all in the winter, because there are only a rare few who think running 100K (62 miles) or 100 miles is fun in the Texas summer heat. The medium distance races (up to 50 miles) are pushing the edge of what makes sense in spring and fall, again due to the heat. With the exception of the Captain Karl's races, which are run at night , we mostly back off during the hottest months of the year. That brings Tejas Trails (my trail business) to May with not much of anything on the calendar. Vol and I made a tentative agreement for the first weekend in May simply because it worked for me and filled a hole in my race calendar. But I didn't know for certain what I was going to do with it until I had my walk-about out there on the ranch.
After a few days of wandering the ranch, I put together my favorite parts and connected the dots, following a few basic rules I have for creating a course, such as making certain that I can access key points at regular intervals for aid station support. Once I had the route, I measured it, and only then did I know it was approximately 13 miles. Once I saw that, I knew that a marathon would fit easily with just two loops, allowing multi-use aid stations for repeat loops every three miles or less.
Unlike so many first year races, this one has a lot of experience behind it. Just looking at the main ingredients tells me Pandora’s Box of Rox will become an instant classic: Vol Montgomery, Tejas Trails, a May marathon, the awesome trail, the fantastic logistics and accommodations, and an always dependable support crew. Put it on your calendar for May 5!