This past Saturday I raced in the North Face Endurance Challenge DC. They offered a wide range of distance options to compete in over the two day trail running festival, and I chose the marathon distance. If you’re put off by the huge crowds at New York and Boston, if you tend to get injured running on streets and sidewalks, or if you’re simply looking for a different kind of race, this is the event for you.
The course runs along beautiful national and state parkland along the Virginia side of the Potomac River, starting in Algonkian State Park in Sterling, Virginia, and heading north to the turn-around in Great Falls Park. The course offers everything that trail runners love: steep hills, opportunities to jump logs, a little bit of water crossing, but also long stretches of even terrain running, and beautiful nature views.
In past years this race has been held in mid- to late summer, but by staging it in the spring, the race would take place during the blooming of the Virginia Blue Bells. They did not disappoint; with the cherry blossoms now a faint memory, this is now the season’s best floral display in the DC area
With the course well marked and supported by well-stocked aid stations, the only real concern was the weather. Cold temperatures, rain, and even snow were predicted, but marathoners were spared all that and treated to mostly clear skies. (The ultra-runners, who all had to start as much as two hours earlier, were not so lucky, and had to deal with early morning rain).
With conditions overhead to our favor, we still had to deal with conditions below: areas of deep mud brought on by the earlier soaking rains. The mud sucked at our shoes and left us all slipping and sliding, but that eventually gave way to drier stretches of trail.
Upon reaching the finish line – over an hour past my usual road marathon finishing time – we were treated to a handsome and heavy finisher’s medal, and a lunch of cole slaw, pulled chicken, and hot dogs. What I really needed, though, was to strip all the mud off me, and a hot shower, but those would come soon enough.
If you regret missing this race, take a look at the other upcoming North Face Endurance Challenge events to take place in New York, Ontario, Wisconsin, and Utah. https://www.thenorthface.com/get-outdoors/endurance-challenge.html.