CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Pat Villella, 48, is a fan of the legendary forest creature known as Sasquatch.
He was telling his wife about a video he saw online that showed a Bigfoot running through the woods. Skeptical, she sat down to run an Internet search.
"I Googled 'running Sasquatch,' and this race came up," she said.
The Villellas didn't know how far Charleston was from their home in Punxsutawney, Pa., but they knew they had found a new trail race to compete in.
The Punxi running crew, as they call themselves, were just a few of the 200 runners that participated in the fourth annual Frozen Sasquatch Trail Race in Kanawha State Forest Saturday morning.
Runners were offered their choice of two distances: 25K, which is roughly 15 miles, or 50K, which is roughly 30 miles. The course featured 11 different trail segments throughout the forest. Racers finished on the Davis Creek Trail, crossing the wooden bridge over the creek before returning to the pool parking lot, where the event began.
The Punxi running crew, which has competed in the race every year, said it looks forward to kicking off the New Year with the long-distance race.
"It's never a bad day here," Villella said. "This trail belongs in a museum. We're going to do them as long as we can - until we're dead."
Mike Dolin, 32, of the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners, which sponsors the race, said the event has grown each year. He wanted a local trail race during the winter that would be fun for runners.
In 2010, the inaugural race had just 100 participants. This year, Dolin said the race filled quickly and even had a waiting list of 30 people. The race is the first event in the 2013 West Virginia Trail Races series, which is made up of 20 runs throughout the state that begin in January and end in November.
This year's Frozen Sasquatch attracted runners from nine different states, including Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Colorado and the District of Columbia. One runner traveled from France.
For the past two years, Stephanie Lallement, 39, and her father, Albert Dulac, 67, have timed his vacation to America so they could run the race together. Lallement lives near Akron, Ohio, while her father lives in Lyon, France.
"We used to go on long runs together and this year I'm turning a big number," Lallement said. "We are doing this together to celebrate."
"The trail in the forest, it's wonderful - fantastic," Dulac said in his native French, which was translated by his daughter.
Like many racers, Brett Ashley, 29, hustled through the pool parking lot to the finish line, encouraged by cheering spectators. With a flushed face and weak legs, he admitted that he did better this year than last.
He started his running career with last year's Frozen Sasquatch.
"It went sort of poorly," he said. "I beat my time by like 45 minutes this year. A little training never hurt."
Ashley was also pleased the race lived up to its name on Saturday. When racers started at 8 a.m., temperatures were in the low 20s.
"Seeing snow out here is just beautiful," he said. "It just adds to the allure of being out here instead of sitting at home."
Dolin was pleased with how the event came together. The runners have fun, and that's the goal.