“Mud, Sweat and Trails – Backwoods Runs in Duluth” Northern Wilds, Aug/Sep 2010.

When I moved to Duluth nine years ago and heard there was a trail running series, I figured I’d give it a try. Here’s one of my early logbook entries: “Epic mud and snow and rain and water. Couldn’t feel feet initially. Up to mid-right thigh in water on way to finish.” I hosed off most of the mud while fully-clothed in the yard before I showered inside. I thought: Now, THAT’s racing.

For the thirtieth year, the Northern Minnesota Track Club (NMTC) will put on races near Duluth this fall. This year’s nine race series starts with the Brown’s Point race on Wednesday, September 1st in Superior, Wisconsin. Visit the Northland Runner website at http://www.northlandrunner.com for a full schedule. Every week, you bash down a different trail. There‘s no better way to learn all the great outdoor venues near the Twin Ports. From Cloquet and Jay Cooke State Park in the west to the Lester Park trails in the east, you’ll see it all.

Jarrow Wahman of Austin-Jarrow Sports in Duluth founded the NMTC back in 1981 along with Bill Austin, Sten Rudstrom, and Mark Sutton. According to the club history on the Northland Runner website, this happened at a Pizza Hut in Duluth. Something in the recipe that day made them hungry for trail racing. Wahman says that he likes the Hartley race the best since it was the first NMTC race and has “a LOT of history, going back to 1981. When I race it I feel young again.” He recommends the Rock Hill and Hawk Ridge events for a new trail runner. He says, “They’re not too technical, but they give you a good feel for the NMTC series personality.”

I’ve knocked out 35 of these trail runs over the past decade. I’ve gotten good and lost. I’ve been chased by hornets. In Chester Bowl, I had to shoo two black bears out of my way in the middle of a race. (Traditionally, there are cookies at the end of the Chester Bowl run, so I calmed my jangled nerves with those.) I’ve had an incredible time with my fellow crazies while almost losing my shoes in the mud. At every finish line, you can grab a pop or some water from one of the coolers. After the last race of the year, there’s a potluck and door prizes. The only bummer is the high race entry fee: one dollar.

So, come on out. Sample some Twin Ports trails. Get some mud in your teeth. It’ll get there because you’re smiling .

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About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
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