Four weeks from Saturday I will be returning to Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin for my third North Face Endurance Challenge Series race there. I am drawn to the race because of the great course, incredibly helpful volunteers and all the amenities for runners.
Speaking of runners, North Face ECS races have a distance literally for everyone — from 5Ks all the way up to 50-milers. The races are held over two days, so conceivably a runner could do a longer distance on the first day, followed by a shorter distance the next day.
I will be doing the 50K, as I did two years ago, which followed up on the marathon distance I completed in 2016. There is still time to sign up and use my special discount code for the Sept. 14-15 race, which takes place about 60 miles southeast of Madison. Use HH20 for 20 percent off any distance.
Still not convinced? Here are the top reasons to try a North Face race.
The packet pickup is easy and convenient. In Wisconsin, the North Face offers several locations to choose from, including at a North Face store, roughly 10 miles from the race start. For those arriving early, there will be a special panel discussion featuring ultra marathon man Dean Karnazes and race director Nick Moore. Karnazes created the race series, seeing it as a way “to get people to challenge themselves.” The panel will be Thursday, Sept. 12, at The North Face, Brookfield Square, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
As noted above, there is literally a race distance for everyone. The longer distances are run on Saturdays, while the half marathon and shorter distances are held on Sundays.
The course is extremely runnable. It’s ideal for those wanting to go fast or those making their first attempt at trail running or a new distance.
The race website and regular e-mail dispatches are filled with great information, resources and tips.
Previous race mornings were easy. There were plenty of parking spots within a short walk from the race start area, where there was a gear check tent, fire pits and more. While there were port-a-pots, the park’s indoor restrooms were very popular.
No matter the distance, the trails are expertly marked with colored ribbons, specifically coded to each race distance.
It is by far the least technical of all the North Face ECS races. For example, the 50K only has 3,886 feet of elevation change.
The aid stations are staffed by helpful volunteers and stocked with great options for refueling. Hammer Nutrition will be available, along with the customary aid station food including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, salted potatoes, M&Ms, water, Coke and other fueling options.
This year the ECS races are going cupless, which I applaud. The race is providing a collapsible water bottle. Runners, especially at the longer distances, should also consider bringing their own bottle or hydration pack.
I still wear the two previous tech shirts I received at North Face races. They are comfortable and nicely designed. Finishers also receive a medal, and those who placed overall or in the age groups, get a memento to remember their strong finish.
The post-race party is among the best I have attended. There are great choices for food, and a free beer for runners 21 and older.