FKT: Alex Guglielmetti - Cape Cod Run Against the Tides (MA) - 2021-09-21

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
20h 39m 11s
GPS track(s)

Article about the route & Alex's run:

Run Notes

Mile 0 The run starts in Provincetown at Pilgrim’s First Landing Park. Parking is difficult to find during the high season. I arranged with a taxi service to drop me at this point. As noted in the picture above, it is only possible to cross here with the mid-low tide.
From there, I jumped on to Provincetown Breakwater (Causeway) and walked-ran over the rocks for about 1 mile to the Wood End sand bar until  and turned north toward Wood End Lighthouse. Follow the coast for 2.3 miles to find the first bathroom and water stop at Herring Cove Beach facilities. This is the first section that gets under water 90 minutes before high tide (as noted in the warning sign at the breakwater entrance.
Be aware that there are several sources for Tide Charts, but be careful that some of these sites are there to collect advertising money and their information can be quite off.  I found that NOAA tides and current predictions are the most accurate.

Mile 5.3 Hatches Harbor  is the second challenge. At high tide, this section will get swamped with head-high water and possible undertows. I timed the run to pass this section 1’ 46” after low tide and I only needed to go over a small 5-10 yard section with knee-deep water, from there an additional mile running towards Race Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse marks the point of departure of Cape Cod Bay to the outer side of the cape facing the North Atlantic Ocean.

On mile 10, I took a detour to get a glance of the Dunes of the Provincelands for about 3 miles, then returned to the seashore on mile 13. I ran 21 miles straight through the seashore, battling soft sand as the high tide started to corner me against the park’s cliffs. Soft sand, sun, and wind factors had an incredible impact on speed and the ability to keep on top of water and salt intake. Along this section, I witnessed hundreds of seals, one shark, several dozen types of birds, beautiful wind-sculpted sand patterns, and a nudist beach. There are five water, shower, and bathroom stops, which are part of the National Park Service infrastructure. 

Mile 34 marks the National Seashore exit. The run goes westbound towards Cape Cod Bay through the Nauset Trail. The trail is 3 miles long and winds along the edge of the Nauset Marsh through a recovering forest that ends in the Salt Pond Visitor Center. I stopped in this spot early in the morning and left a food cache hidden behind the bathrooms. On my way back after 12 hours running, I was happy to see that my food was intact, and the chicken wrap, frozen oranges, and watermelon were still fresh and ready to be devoured. This is an excellent place to refill all water bottles since there is no water for the next 8 miles. There is a small 3 mile run through local roads from the Center to connect with First Encounter Beach.
Mile 40, First Encounter Beach, marks the third pass that depends on tides. At high tides, water is deep enough for mid-size fishing boats, and barely any water at low tide. There is no internal trail since the coast is flanked by marshes. At 6 pm, the place welcomed me with a magnificent sunset and 3 miles of hard-packed (and wet) sand. At this time, in some sections, the water may be knee-deep, but for the most part, it is runnable. The exit of this section is a car road named Crosby Landing.

I made a mistake in this section and ended up in quicksands when by mistake I found myself cutting through the marshlands in Skaket river. This error cost me 90 minutes and a good scare. 

Mile 43 marks the Entrance of Nickerson State Park, a beautiful six-mile loop around three kettle ponds surrounded by woodlands and sandy shores. Trails are very well kept and also extensive. The trail system is very complex. I relied on both my Garmin watch and Gaia GPS app to keep track of the trail since it is very easy to get disoriented and take the wrong turn. Once I finished the Nickerson loop,  I ran back to Crosby Landing to tackle the final section of Brewster Flats towards the end of the run; Nickerson Park is the last water fountain.

Mile 52, Crosby Landing marks the last section of the run. This section of the beach is perfect for running a final sprint towards Paines Creek Landing at mid to low tide. At high tide, most of the section is doable, however, there are many private jetties from coastal homes that need to be sorted out. In some cases, locals may not be happy with the idea of having runners passing by their property boundaries with their ubiquitous private beach signs. Another alternative is to get a little bit wet. This is ok in summer and fall, but spring water can still be in the low 60s to upper 50s.
After a short run through a local street, Mile 57 marks the end of this incredible run. There is an open mall (Lemon Tree Shops) with ample parking and a good food selection. If you are lucky enough to stay a few yards down the road at the Sea Meadow Inn, your crew, a hot shower under the stars, and a warm bed will be waiting for you after a long day of running.