By Mike Casper
There may be no minimum age for enthusiasm for a challenge.
So it seems, as the relay team named Young Chicks of the Mountain prepares to take part in this year’s Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon.
Ella Raish, 11, is one of three siblings that will team with their two parents and a friend to form a 6-person team for the Oct. 16 race.
“I’m excited about running with my parents,” said Ella. “This is going to be fun!”
Ella runs track and does hurdles and long jump as part of Nittany Youth Track & Field & Cross Country, said her mother, Victoria Raish. Ella regularly does sprint workouts and 20- minute tempo runs and is also a competitive gymnast with
Centre Elite Gymnastics.
Emma Raish, 13, the eldest child of the family, in 8th grade, runs cross country for Bellefonte Middle School. She started running when she was 7.
Emma has a two- pronged training program. She goes to cross country practice for her middle school, and – “I just do what my parents tell me to do in my training.”
Elsa Raish, 8, and her friend Norah Harpster, 10, also
race for the Nittany Youth program.
“I’m most excited to finish the race,” said Elsa, “doing the
race with my friend and sisters, and running down hills.”
Elsa started to run at age 6 with the Nittany youth program. “She really specializes now in trail running,” said Victoria. Elsa recently finished 2nd of all girls at the Smallfoot Trail Fest in
“My mom was running, and I wanted to try running,” said
Elsa. “I learned I love long-distance running.”
Elsa, Norah, and Emma plan to travel to Indiana for youth
cross country nationals in November. Elsa trains about four days a week at cross country practice and does a long run on Sundays, up to 4 miles. Norah is a good friend and also a good training partner. Last year at nationals, she was the 3rd best among 9-year-old American runners.
Ella’s parents, Adam and Victoria Raish, ran the Tussey Mountainback’s 50-mile race as a 2-person relay team the past two years, and have inspired Ella’s own interest in running. “They are good,” said Ella, “and I want to be good like them.”
Victoria said Adam has been central to the kids’ running interest and progress. “He is amazing at training our kids – he will take Elsa on her workouts, he races with her, he paces her, he will do sprint workouts with Ella, and when we were at the beach, he dominated at sand sprinting.”
In the 2-person relay team scenario, the two runners must alternate after each leg of the 12-leg course, one covering a total of almost 28 miles and the other more than 22 miles.
Victoria Raish has a few things to be excited about for this year’s race.
”I am most excited about not having to do six legs this year,” said Victoria. “In all seriousness, I can’t wait to run it with my older kids and their friend. Tussey is more than a race. It is a bonding experience and something we talk about all year long, both with dread and anticipation!”
That may be a subtle indicator of potential relay teams to come, as there are five sisters in the family.
Victoria said she started running in 7th grade. “But even though I ran in college, I didn’t take it seriously until my late twenties.”
Victoria said it was tricky deciding which legs of the course to assign to which runners, a strategy that relay teams with runners of any age must figure out. “I debated this heavily, and ultimately balanced people’s strengths with their weaknesses to hopefully make a strong team overall.”
Victoria said she is currently running about 50 to 60 miles a week, “with one solid workout a week, conveniently ignoring long runs.”
Victoria is honest about the challenge of the 2-person relay team and about the opportunity she saw this year for the family. “We really didn’t want to do a 2-person team again, and our kids like to watch the torture (seeing us challenge ourselves), so when we finally had them all old enough to do two legs, we thought, why not?”
Registration for the team relay event is open through Oct. 8. For those unfamiliar with the Mountainback event, it’s useful to note that in the relay, runners could run as few as 3 miles. Registration for the ultramarathon, including 50-kilometer and 50-mile options, continues through Oct. 15.
Proceeds from the 2022 Mountainback event support the Dyslexia Reading Center of Central PA, which helps local youth and adult clients to triumph over this challenging disability. For more information about the Dyslexia Reading Center, visit https://dyslexiareadingcenter.org/.
Details about the Mountainback race and a link to registration are available at www.tusseymountainback.com.
To learn about volunteer opportunities, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau is a major sponsor of the Mountainback event. Key sponsors also include Rapid Transit Sportswear, Steven Bodner Team of RE/MAX Centre Realty, Wegmans, Appalachian Outdoors/The North Face, Subway Restaurants, Kish Bank, The Bicycle Shop, Cathy Kennedy, Centre Elite Gymnastics, East Coast Health & Fitness, Koch Funeral Home, Woods House Historic Pub, CENTRE Markets, Cathy Kennedy, The Free Book Bus, The Phantom Pooper, RUN717 Coaching, School of Intuitive Yoga, Still Not A Hippie and TikTok & Instagram Supporters, Tussey Mountain, and The Sign Stop.
Captions: Emma, Ella and Elsa Raish take a pause before a recent race. Norah Harpster performing on the track.
Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon.