A New Challenge: Trail Marathon

nfecswi2014110[1][1][1][1]North Face Endurance Series tests runners on tough terrain in picturesque settings. MTA members and blog readers can receive 15 percent off entries into any race distance by using the code below.

By Henry Howard

The North Face Endurance Challenge Series presents six challenging courses to runners of all experience levels. In fact, runners can do any regular race distance from a 5K to a 50-miler.

North Face Endurance Challenge

The series expands internationally into Toronto this coming weekend, July 18-19. The event, at Blue Mountain Resort, about 90 miles outside of Toronto, features the most pronounced elevation gain trail race in all of Ontario. Longer events are held on the Saturday, followed by half-marathons, 10K and 5Ks on the Sunday.

Each of the races in this series boasts special challenges, culminating with the championship race in the Golden Gate Recreational Area in early December. The races are hosted by Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes, who will be at each event on Saturday and Sunday to kick off all of the races.

Racing along the Ice Age Trail

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For my first full marathon trail race, I wanted such a challenge. I picked the North Race event in Wisconsin in October. The race takes place about 60 miles east-southeast of the capital of Madison in Kettle Moraine State Park. In fact, a good portion of the race occurs on the Ice Age Trail.

The website states that this is the least technical of all the North Face series events. However, it also notes “the forested area, massaged by monstrous glaciers many millennia ago, contains wake-up-call hill climbs of 200-300 feet and enough undulating terrain to challenge even those granite-legged mountain runners.”

Special discount code for upcoming races

Remaining races in this year’s series include (click the links for more information):

Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario, Canada, July 18-19.
Park City Mountain Resort, 20 miles outside Salt Lake City, Utah, September 26-27.
Kettle Moraine State Park near Madison, Wisconsin, Oct. 3-4.

If you would like to join me (or Karnazes) at the Wisconsin race — or participate in the Ontario or Utah events — use the code MARATHONTA15 (all caps) for 15 percent off any distance!

Six questions with the race director

Since I have not raced one of these events previously, I wanted to get some more information before I decided to try one. Race director Nick Moore, a former nationally ranked duathlete, agreed to help out.

After several years of being a competitor, lead navigator and adventure race instructor, Moore decided to put his knowledge to use by becoming a race planner and director. Over his career, he has directed the Hi-Tec Series, Balance Bar Sprint Series and Wild Onion.

In 2007, he began working to plan and execute The North Face Endurance Challenge Series and has remained an integral part of the team.

1. As running has increased in popularity, so too have the types of races that race directors are putting on. What makes the North Face Endurance Challenge special? 


The North Face Endurance Challenge offers a distances for every skill set of runner. We have everything from a 5K to 50 miles so everyone has a distance that works for them. We also offer a free kid’s fun run 1K.

2. Tell me about the Wisconsin course. 
We have a really great race course in Wisconsin.

Ottawa Lake is a great place to host our event and we have great support from the local community. Our race courses are a combination of double track, single track, some horse trails and of course part of the iconic Ice Age trail. The park does a great job of grooming these trails for us for the fall so we can run here. It’s Wisconsin, so our terrain is relatively “rolling” vs. steep. But it is still super beautiful and super challenging.

3. What should runners know going in to the race — or specifically train for — that will help them have a memorable race day? 

Make sure to train on the trails before race day. You can get away with jumping on the trails for the first time, but to be comfortable and have the best experience possible, make sure to hit the trails once each week to learn your way around.


4. You offer everything from a 5K to a 50-miler. What kind of logistics challenges does that present that a typical race event doesn’t, and how do you prepare for those? 


Having these different distances makes logistics challenging. Challenges include making sure we have enough at our aid stations throughout the course of the day for all of our runners. We are also out there the entire event, so we make sure we are prepared to motivate everyone from the first finisher to our last runner at the cut off. We also have a two-day event so we are out there all day on Saturday and then return on Sunday to do it all over again. We make sure to plan and prepare to have everything in place on both days so we can have a successful event.


5. October in Wisconsin can be, um, interesting. Put on your weather forecasting hat and tell me what runners might expect on race day. 


This is a great question. And if you are from Wisconsin you know that Mother Nature is always lurking. In our years past we have had mild weather to windy and rain — so it is a complete guessing game. History in this area though says a high of 64 and low of 42 for Oct 3-4, so let’s hope that “history” is on our side and we have a sunny 64-degree day with no wind and some high clouds for the runners. That said, we better pack GORE-TEX products also just in case it rains, as it is Wisconsin and you just don’t know. One thing it won’t be is 100 degrees, so we wont have to worry about the extreme heat.


6. Runners have lots of choices in their races. Why should runners choose a race in this series over others? 


The North Face Endurance Challenge gives runners the perfect entrance to the trail world. For beginners we have the best race for them to come test their trail skills for the first time. For veterans, our races offer beautiful scenery that they won’t get anywhere else and also provide challenging courses that will make for lifelong memories.

That sold me. Hello, Wisconsin. Come join me for a memorable race.

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One Response to A New Challenge: Trail Marathon

  1. Angie Spencer July 14, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    Great interview Henry. You’ve inspired me to sign up for the 50 miler in WI 🙂

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