Red River Gorge

Race and Adventure Series
Rugged RedThe Ascent 5K



A one of a kind course seated in the Red River Gorge. It is very challenging and technical consisting of roots, rocks, creek crossings, steep inclines and declines, stair steps, and uneven trail. Racers should all have trail running experience before the day of race. Accept the Challenge and come Run The Rugged RED!


The Ascent 5K

This course may be shorter, but it is full of challenges and breathtaking views.  Plan to take your time with the difficult bits as well as the unmatched vistas.  Run with some friends so you can share this unique experience in pristine Kentucky woodlands.


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While the Ascent is closing in, we want to remind you that we are also gearing up for the Rugged Red Half Marathon in September! Will you be there? 

Tell us what you’re looking forward to the most in the comments!

Photo credit: Tina Kraska
Still looking for a place to lay your head for the Ascent 5K? Tomorrow is the last day that you can call Cori at 606-663-9352 to book a campsite before that weekend is opened up to the public.

How convenient would it be to wake up just feet from where you’ll start the race?!
We are about a month out from one of the most beautiful 5Ks in the state of Kentucky? Have you registered to see these views?
Did you know? 

The Ascent 5K is held on private property. While on the trail, you will be able to see 5 different arches only accessible by running this race! 

Ready to explore a new trail?!
Visiting London and soaking up some inspiration from all of these marathoners. There is something magical about race day.
I can’t wait to get back out here. Have you registered for The Ascent? Be sure to call Cori to book your camping spot too. (606)663-9352
Happy New Year! If you have fitness goals on your list for 2023, register for the Rugged and find inspiration all year!
Race dates and registration information is available for 2023!  Register now to keep you inspired to train this winter.  
The Ascent 5k Saturday June 3, 2023
The Rugged Red Half Marathon Saturday September 23, 2023
We can't wait to see back on the trails!
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“I loved Rugged Red, the volunteers, were great, Loved the race course and its challenges. The only suggestion I have is maybe have a few basic first aid supplies at the aid stations. As technical as that course is, just having some basic first aid at the checkpoints for falls, or mile 6 hornet stings lol, would be awesome. Really though this race lived up to all the hype, it was truly a great experience!”

Corine LeMaster Pitts

“Fantastic trail race! I especially liked the variable terrain (creeks, dirt, mud, sand, stone, rocks, and the suspension bridge!), single “loop” course (never repeating anything), the challenge of the elevation change, and the friendliness of the volunteers/participants. Awesome experience!”

Adam Hoefler

“Fortunate to have run every one of the Rugged Reds you have put on.”

Julie Bryan

“This was my first half! Loved this race and all the awesome people we would meet along the trail.”

Emily Schnitzler Geraci


Our Host and Race Director

Joe Bowen is best described in two ways. One is where he lives. The second is what he’s done.

Joe has never settled for anything in his life. And at 78 years young, he’s just getting started. You won’t even believe his list of lifelong accomplishments:

  • Papa Joe has biked 14,000 miles across the entire United States. Not once, but twice. Once in his twenties and again in his sixties. He still rides the 32 mile Gorge Loop frequently.
  • Joe started the Red River Rally, a bicycling event that has been going on in the Red River Gorge for over 50 years.
  • Joe owns the Guinness Book of World Records for the  longest stilt walk, 3008 miles, across America and raised over $104,000 for the Muscular  Dystrophy Association
  • Joe is the published author of Real Winners Don’t Quit & Stiltwalk & Bicycling through America. He also does storytelling and public speaking and writes a weekly column for the local newspaper.
  • Joe has been featured in KET’s “Kentucky Life” television program as well as in the US Forest Service video “Your River’s Need You”
  • Joe was nominated and carried the Olympic Torch TWICE
  • Joe received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1986 along with John Denver, Jackie Onassis, Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio and others.


The Appalachia region has been a victim of poverty for as long as anyone can remember. We are trying to help ourselves make a new vision, a new future, that maintains our environment and culture but brings us up to being more economically stable….Read the whole story in About.