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Plotting out a race calendar with challenges

By Henry Howard

Like many runners, I often find there are too many races that I want to experience and not enough time. Since I focus on marathons and ultras, I also need to ensure proper recovery time so that I can be ready for the next one. So the four to six I choose each year have to resonate deeply for me.

While I approach running as an overall journey and process, there is something special about race day. It’s a time to test our fitness, embrace the community and relish the simple pleasure of running. (My year got off to a good start, experiencing a new-to-me nighttime trail marathon.)

And it’s also a time to challenge ourselves with a new distance, experience or adventure.

When plotting out my race calendar for this year, I set out to do a different more challenging 100-miler. My long-range goal is to get into Western States so I need to keep achieving qualifiers each year to improve upon my currently slim odds. (My four tickets in the drawing for the 2023 race equated or about a 3.9% chance of being selected. I wasn’t.)

While I had a blast the past two years at the Hennepin Hundred, I craved a new challenge. And I also wanted to make a difference.

That’s why I chose Burning River, a 100-miler in July in Ohio. It will be hot, unlike Hennepin which takes place in the fall. Additionally, Burning River will challenge this flag after with its 8,000 feet of gain. (Hennepin has 1000.)

I’m roughly six months away from lining up at Burning River. My goal? Raise $1,000 for the trail system to support this race. I’d be honored if you’d help me in this quest by making a contribution here. Thank you for considering.

Big elevation, big challenge

Leading up to Burning River, I had planned to run an Earth Day race, put on by Ornery Mule Racing (OMR). However, I happened to win a race entry for the Blue Ridge Marathon, billed as “America’s Toughest Road Marathon,” which is the same day as the Earth Day race.

Thankfully OMR race director Michele Hartwig let me transfer my Earth Day entry to the 50K at Hennepin. So now I also have a fall race I am looking forward to.

After winning the Blue Ridge entry, I had the option to choose the marathon, half or 10K. I selected the marathon, which has 7,400 feet of elevation change, including, nearly 5,000 of gain. Yes, nearly 5,000 — compare that with Burning River’s 8,000 feet.

Training for a marathon with such a huge elevation profile will be a challenge, especially while living and training in a flat area. But as endurance athletes, we don’t choose to do these events because they are easy, we choose to do them because they are hard.

And, after all, that’s what makes the journey so special, gives it meaning and drives us to seek out the next adventure.


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