Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run 2011

December 10 was the date of this race which we often refer to as “Godzilla” because Metro Tri Club otherwise known as Team Godzilla sponsors this race. It is a trail run with a limit of 650 participants and race registration opened at midnight on September 1st promptly selling out in 6 hours and 49 minutes. I was awake in front of my computer at midnight to register that is when the fun started.  Here’s how the event organizers describe the race:  “An off-road 7.5 mile Trail Run. We run along single-track trails through the scenic Pere Marquette State Park. Ours is considered the toughest & most grueling race in the Midwest! …if you are a runner looking to get off the road & try a real challenge. We accept no Wimps or Whiners. Harsh penalties exist for anyone caught looking Wimpish or acting Whiner-like.”

A handful of us met at 7:15am and rode to Grafton Illinois together. Overnight the temperatures had plummeted giving us race morning weather that was sunny crisp and cold.  The trail itself was frozen with a spattering of frosty areas, this along with the leaves created slippery conditions I would have to be cautious about. As we arrived and walked towards registration fellow runner Steve commented that there were a lot of very fit looking people getting ready to run the race. The big variety of body types that you see at marathons was not visible this race.  

There is no way you can start 650 people at the same time running along this single path trail so we started in waves.  I had tried to get in the same wave with my running buddy Rick but somehow I ended up in wave 21 of about 23 waves. Each wave started 30 seconds apart and this had me starting 10 minutes and 30 seconds behind the first wave far behind the leading pack. I was worried that I would be blocked in and force to run slow in a bunch but that wasn’t the case. When my wave was called I promptly took off and tucked in right behind a guy leading out of the chute. He was fast and quickly dropped me as I continued running towards the group of runners ahead of me.  I’d been warned of the challenging hill climbs and quickly approached the first one. Trail runners have an interesting philosophy “If you can’t see over it, walk it” and I adopted this strategy. I know from experience that for  running up a steep climb is hardly any faster than power hiking up it but running takes a huge amount of energy in return for the slight speed increase.  I leaned forward as we hit the first climb pushing up the hill and even though I wasn’t running I was still breathing hard hungry for air.  The course was a series of flying down thrilling descents and huffing up laborious climbs. Atop the bluff I would peek away from my feet for a moment to savor the incredible vistas overlooking the river. Fancy footwork was necessary to maneuver the roots, rocks, leaves, steps, planks and frosty slick spots.  At one point barreling downhill I found myself airborne toppling head first almost diving to the ground. Somehow I dragged my foot and sort of twisted my ankle while remaining upright. This all happened in a sort of panic stricken, oh no, not an injury kind of long stumble. Miraculously I didn’t crash but my ankle did pay the price of saving me from that fall.

I’d been training on the trails quite a bit lately and it paid off as I finished taking second place in my age group.  I thoroughly enjoyed this run and would recommend it. This year we received bright yellow running vests and at the finish line they provided coffee, hot chocolate and gobs of cookies. What more could you want?