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Hungerford Trail Races answers my 'why'

At any start line, there may be as many runners as there are “whys.” Some may be chasing a lofty PR. Some may be out to prove to themselves that they can do hard things. Others may be there for the joy they find in the running community.

After the North Face Endurance Challenge Series announced it was retooling its events, including the Wisconsin race that I did three times, I searched for a new fall race.

I wanted a race that would inspire me.

I wanted a race that would challenge me.

I wanted a race that would speak to me.

The Hungerford Trail Races checked all those boxes and fulfilled my “why.” Hungerford offers a 50-mile, marathon and half marathon at its Sept. 26 event in Big Rapids, Mich. Check out their website for more information and use my special code RUNSPIRITED for 15 percent off any distance.

About the race

I considered the 50-mile option, but already had three ultras on the calendar this year and one that I am planning on in November. So I chose the marathon option as a good yet challenging training run leading up to the final ultra of 2020.

The course appears to have a little bit of everything: some hills and some flats; some single-tracks, some two-tracks, and some lonely gravel roads; some dirt, some sand, and some mud. And by all accounts, the aid stations are fantastic and the scenery is beautiful.

The race website is among the best-designed and easy-to-navigate ones I have seen. Check out the FAQ page, for example, out for more information about the course, aid stations, race day and more.

I first heard of the race from fellow Team SWAP athlete and Bigger Than The Trail ambassador Mikel Haggadone. He won the marathon last year, even though he went off course for two miles.

“Upon realizing that I was WAY off course, I smiled, turned around, and focused on getting back on track, he told me. “That’s responding to setback with grace, and for me that’s success. Coach (David) Roche uses the phrase, ‘Shoot your shot.’ That’s what I’m trying to do in life: shoot my shot, let it rip, and allow success to flow from living with unreserved authenticity.”

I look forward to meeting Haggadone, who is running the marathon again.

Journey to the start line

The race itself is about eight months away from the time I wrote this. Even for an ultra runner, that is a long time.

Anything can — and probably will — happen in that long timespan.

During that time, I will likely experience the highest of highs in my running — maybe a PR or an age group podium — and the lowest of lows, like an injury or other setback. As runners, we find joy in the process.

There is joy in the simple pleasure of careening through a scenic trail or exploring an area we have not seen on foot before. Or just a daily accomplishment of answering the 4:30 a.m. alarm clock and knocking out an easy run.

We’re in it for the process. We’re in it for the joy we find in the daily grind. We’re thankful for the small steps that turn into monumental gains when we shoot our shot.

Hungerford is a long time from now. But that’s OK — there is much joy to be found, on every run, on every step and every mile from now until the gun sounds on that Saturday in September.

And on that day, I will step to the start line, physically trained and mentally prepared with my “why” front and center.

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