Running The Trails At Hungry Mother State Park

Saturday morning I drove to Marion to meet Meagan for a trail run at Hungry Mother State Park. Bill and I ran there a couple of times in October and loved it so much that we decided to run the half marathon scheduled for this spring.  The only problem was that the race was moved to another Virginia park this year.

I’m sure you think Hungry Mother is a very interesting name for a park.  The name actually comes from a sad story, if true.  From the I Love Virginia State Parks website:

The Legend of Hungry Mother

Legend has it that when the Native Americans destroyed several settlements on the New River south of the park, Molly Marley and her small child were among the survivors taken to the raiders’ base north of the park. They eventually escaped, wandering through the wilderness eating berries. Molly finally collapsed, and her child wandered down a creek until the child found help. The only words the child could utter were “Hungry Mother.” The search party arrived at the foot of the mountain where Molly collapsed to find the child’s mother dead. Today that mountain is Molly’s Knob, and the stream is Hungry Mother Creek.

Since I was going to be in the area, Meagan and I arranged for our own trail run and decided to meet at 8 AM.  It was a foggy morning in the higher elevations as I drove to Marion and passed my first sign, but by the time we were ready to start our run, most of the fog had burned off and we had pretty clear views.


Meagan and I met on the south side of the lake below the spillway, parked our cars, paid for our parking , and got ready to run.  Our first stop was to look at the sign to see where we would be running.  Meagan and her husband had recently run at the park, so she was familiar with the main trail that runs around the lake.


Bill and I had only run a small portion of the lake trail and had instead focused on running up to the Molly’s Knob summit.  It’s a little confusing and easy to miss finding Molly’s Knob Trail.  I remembered that we had to run up an asphalt road for a short distance before connecting to the dirt trail.  Using the map we got a good idea of where we would need to turn to find the trail.


First Meagan and I took off on the Lake Trail Loop, a six-mile loop around Hungry Mother Lake.


Once we got into the thick of the woods we ran past beautiful mountain laurel in full bloom.


About a quarter way around the lake we found the asphalt portion and road that leads to Molly’s Knob Trail.  From that point it’s a 1.9-mile climb to the summit.

Along our way we ran across something that looked like a piece of dynamite, so of course we stopped to investigate instead of running for our lives!  It ended up being a portion of a stick wrapped in camouflage duct tape.


We ran/hiked the early portion of Molly’s Knob Trail, but once we got to the final .4 miles to the summit, we stopped running and hiked.  I don’t think Meagan believed me when I saw light beyond the trees and told her that the summit was near!

Meagan and I showed up for our run wearing the exact same purple Costco running tank!  Add our black running shorts (similar, but not identical), and we were twins.  It was great!  We didn’t see a lot of other people, but I wonder what those that we saw though!


Several times on our ascent I had to stop, take my shoes off, and pull my socks back up.  I love my Feetures, but even they slipped down past my heels.  In their defense, I think they stayed up longer than any of my other socks ever have when climbing a hill that steep.  I think putting lotion on my dry feet is the problem.  Meagan suggested putting a little baby powder in my socks to see if that would help.  I’m definitely going to try that before my next steep uphill run.  On descents or flat running, I never have a problem.

My Asics GEL-Scouts Trail running shoes did great!  It was after our October trail runs that Bill and I decided to buy trail shoes and we haven’t regretted it.


We had a steady 1.9-mile descent off the mountain, and I was quite surprised that my quads weren’t really sore the following day.


We stopped for a view of the lake before we got back down to the Lake Trail Loop.


Meagan snapped this running picture of me crossing one of the cool bridges near the picnic area of the park, and I took a similar picture of her.  It was a great photo-opp location and some bikers teased us about it!


Once we ran past the back side of the swimming area, we turned following the trail back toward the spillway where we started.  We had a good view of the beach area of the park before it opened for the day.


As we turned south, the trail was tucked between the lake and Route 16, and we ran past some families fishing along this stretch of the trail.  By this point Meagan and I were very hot and schemed about taking our shoes off and dipping our toes in the cool lake water.


Luckily for us, we were out in the sun (what little there was) for only a few minutes before heading back into the cooler tree-shaded area.


Eventually the cinder trail turned back to dirt as it continued to run parallel to the lake.


As we ran along, we looked to our left and up, and saw Molly’s Knob where we had just been running!


Back on the south side of the lake, we passed the spillway as we finished up our run.


About 100 yards from our finish I stopped for my final trail picture.  These daisies were too pretty to pass up!


Since Meagan was using her Garmin, she got an elevation chart of our run.  Looking at this, it’s not hard to pick out Molly’s Knob!


Next up on Meagan’s and my must-run-together list?  Pandapas Pond near Blacksburg!


  • Questions:
  • Have you ever heard of Hungry Mother State Park?
  • Where’s your favorite running trail?
  • What are your Independence Day plans?
Happy Running! ~ Deb


  1. July 1, 2014    

    What a pretty trail! That’s so funny you and Meagan showed up matching 🙂
    Becky recently posted…Monday After A Weekend Trip…My Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 2, 2014    

      If you were still in Blacksburg, it would be about an hour drive for you to run those trails. Have you ever run the trails at Pandapas Pond?

  2. Amy Amy
    July 1, 2014    

    Shut up! These pictures are GORGEOUS and Mountain Laurel? Totally makes me miss my old Pennsylvania mountains! You and Meagan are REALLY making me want to come out and visit VA soon. I have a cousin in Richmond that is always bothering me to come visit and run the mountains and drink VA wine. I love Colorado, but the cute bridges in your pictures make me miss the East 🙂
    Amy recently posted…Dramatizing DeathMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 2, 2014    

      If you come to Virginia you have to plan ahead and let us know so Meagan and I can meet you for a run! I can recommend some fun wineries near me, but there are also lots in central Virginia closer to Richmond.

  3. Kim Kim
    July 1, 2014    

    What a gorgeous place you have to run!!!
    Kim recently posted…3 Recent ScaresMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 2, 2014    

      Thanks! Virginia has some beautiful state parks.

  4. Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama
    July 1, 2014    

    Ohhh, I really wish I could have joined you and Meagan last weekend! NEXT TIME!
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Struttin’ in Style with Kuhl Stella TankMy Profile

    • July 2, 2014    

      We missed you Nicole! Hopefully we can all get together next time!

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 2, 2014    

      It was a so fun and we missed you!

  5. July 2, 2014    

    I’m glad we were able to meet up! Thanks for running with me 🙂 I wrote my recap before reading yours, and it’s funny the little things we both mentioned.

    Yes, Pandapas Pond next!! We may need to dedicate a few weekends to that one. You took me up Molly’s Knob, so now it’s my turn to take you up Brush Mountain!
    Meagan recently posted…Weekly Workout Roundup – June 23 – 29My Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 2, 2014    

      Alrighty, I’m ready to tackle Brush Mountain!

  6. July 2, 2014    

    That is a great blogger meet up. I read Meagan’s post about that trail before and that it was gorgeous then also. Vastly different than the desert. Tons of green and oh yeah fog, what is that lol.
    The running Schlub recently posted…Oh I’m Suppose To Be Running??My Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 2, 2014    

      It was the forth time Meagan and I had run together. If it weren’t for blogging, we would have never met!

      Fog is what makes my ponytail frizz like crazy when I run! HaHaHa!!!

  7. July 2, 2014    

    looks like such a pretty trail. im loving all the flowers on my runs these days too.
    kristin recently posted…THE BEACH HOUSEMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 2, 2014    

      I love seeing wild flowers along the trails!

  8. jan jan
    July 4, 2014    

    What a beautiful trail! Love all of the pictures you too. That’s so funny that you were twins!!
    jan recently posted…Prophetstown Runaround 5kMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      July 5, 2014    

      Thanks, Jan! I love taking pictures along the way, especially on trail runs.

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Race PR’s (Personal Records)

5K - 22:57 (7:23 pace)
8K - 39:25 (7:55 pace)
10K - 47:05 (7:40 pace)
Ten Mile - 1:16:22 (7:38 pace)
20K - 1:45:30 (8:30 pace)
Half Marathon - 1:54:34 (8:45 pace)
Twenty Mile - 2:46:14 (8:18 pace)
Marathon - 3:29:04 (7:59 pace)
Ultramarathon - 10:50:30 (13:00 pace)

2016 Race Schedule

February 14 - Run Your Heart Out 5K
April 17 - Loudoun 8K or Half Marathon
April 29 & 30 - Ragnar Trail Richmond Ultra
May 22 - Chicago Spring Half Marathon
July 4 - Firecracker 5K
August 21 - Leesburg 20K
September 16 & 17 - Ragnar DC
November 24 - Thanksgiving Day 5K
December 11 - Frosty 5K

Favorite Races

1997 Marine Corps Marathon (3:44:56) - first marathon and first Boston qualifier

1997 JFK 50-Miler (10:50:30) - first and only ultra

1998 Boston Marathon (3:39:57) - first Boston

1999 Steamtown Marathon (3:29:04) - PR marathon

2010 North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon (5:32:38) - favorite trail marathon


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