The idea for the race was created in 2017 by an incoming Clemson graduate student who had been inspired by a similar free trail marathon in Salt Lake City, UT. At that time, there were no active races in the Clemson Experimental Forest and there were no trail races within 20 miles of Clemson University. With an expansive trail system in Clemson’s backyard and an active local community starved of trail races, the stage was set for the birth of a race unlike any other in South Carolina.

The name “Clemson Experimental Marathon” gives a nod to the location of the race as well as the reality that the entire idea was an experiment which could have easily failed. The race directors had never organized a race before and only had two months to promote the first marathon. But after the 26.2-mile course was set and permission was granted from the forest manager, the Clemson community began jumping on board. The Clemson Running Club promoted the race to its members and the local running store passed out flyers and shared the race via Facebook. On the morning of the race, 72 runners showed up and the Clemson Experimental Marathon was officially born.

The 2018 race featured several highlights:

  • 72 runners toed the line to compete in one of the three distances.

  • 12 individuals finished the entire marathon including a few first-time marathon finishers.

  • Two relay teams completed the entire marathon.

The 2019 race saw several improvements including t-shirts, hats, and stickers to purchase. While the turnout for the first Clemson Experimental Marathon had exceeded expectations, Year 2 was when the race really exploded! Some of the highlights included:

  • 266 runners toed the line in one of the distances.

  • 35 individuals finished the entire marathon.

  • Over 3000 miles were run by all participants in total!

  • The race raised over $500 for the Clemson Experimental Forest trail system.

After the 2019 race, the organizers created the “Experimental Forest Trail Runners” student organization in order to preserve the race and provide structure for future race organizers. The mission of the Experimental Forest Trail Runners and the Clemson Experimental Marathon are one and the same: To introduce students, faculty, staff and the community to the Clemson Experimental Forest trail system, to promote the sport of trail running and its benefits to one’s physical and mental health, and to support the Clemson Experimental Forest.


The start of the 2nd annual Clemson Experimental Marathon on March 30, 2019