Trail runners endure hours of heat, mud

Runners take off across a field during the start of the Hawk 50-Mile and Marathon Trail Runs. The Lawrence Trail Hawks hosted the races on Saturday along the Clinton Lake North Shore Trails.

Runners take off across a field during the start of the Hawk 50-Mile and Marathon Trail Runs. The Lawrence Trail Hawks hosted the races on Saturday along the Clinton Lake North Shore Trails.

May 23, 2010


In case the thick forests, rolling hills and rocky shoreline of the Clinton Lake State Park’s North Shore trail system didn’t provide sufficient difficulty, Mother Nature decided to put her own spin on Saturday’s Hawk 50-Mile and Marathon Trail Runs.

A week of rain turned the trails along Clinton Lake into a glorified mud pit and temperatures shot into the upper-80s Saturday, making conditions for the event — hosted by the Lawrence Trail Hawks — far from optimal.

“We were afraid park officials might ask us to call the race off,” said race co-director Gary Henry. “The rain has caused several problems. But we were hoping against hope that we were going to be able to have it.”

Unlike traditional marathons, which are held primarily on pavement and therefore largely immune to inclement weather, trail runs place runners in an off-road environment, meaning that certain setbacks — namely, rain — have the potential to severely alter the course makeup.

Such was the case Saturday, as competitors were subjected to extensive stretches of ankle-deep mud, wet rocks and, in some cases, chest-high water — prompting a number of runners to down-grade from the 50-mile race to the marathon and others to exit their respective race altogether.

Even the event’s top finishers seemed a bit thrown by the difficulty of the course.

Brad Bishop, who won the 50-mile run in 8:53:26, has completed more than a dozen ultramarathons since February of 2009 and entered Saturday’s race feeling good about his chances of clocking in with a personal best time.

Then the race began, and he was forced to re-evaluate his previous analysis.

“The heat was the toughest part,” said Bishop, 24, of Kansas City. “Once it started cooking during the second lap, my goal moved from running ‘X’ pace to ‘Don’t overheat and don’t walk.’”

Added Nolan Nurmikko, the winner of the marathon in 4:56:21, “You can never get a steady pace, never get a steady beat. It was just one obstacle after another.”

Despite the unfavorable conditions, however, Saturday’s race brought runners from as far as Florida, Virginia and Washington, and those that did complete the course, certainly, had reason to rejoice.

“These people that finished today are amazing,” said race co-director Coleen Voeks. “I’ve competed in these things before, and I still marvel. These people are stunning.”

And even though runners stumbled toward the finish line mud-caked and exhausted and looking generally miserable, it was only a matter of time, Voeks assured, before they’d be planning their next weekend running endeavor.

Call it the curse of the ultramarathoner.

“It’s like an addiction,” Voeks said. “When you’re doing it, you’re thinking, ‘What am I doing? I’ll never do this again.’ And when you get done, you’re like, ‘I can’t wait to do it again.’”


trailrunner 8 years ago

Nice story! You mean you didn't want to wait there until 8pm to report on me winning first female? Haha.

Nick Lang 8 years ago

Thanks for being out there guys! :) Ultramarathoners are typically a cult like people and the news of their endeavors typically go unreported.

For anyone reading this who wants to know in more detail about the Hawk 50, Gary Henry's posted his race report up on the trailhawk site -

joev71 8 years ago

What the real story should be is how these runners and this event destroyed the trails at Clinton Lake. This is a public trail built and maintained by volunteers. It is unbelievable selfish for this group of people, many who like the "Trailhawks" profess their respect for the environment and the trails would hold an event which created such damage. I challenge the LJW to do a story on the havoc that was done to the trails at this event.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Joe had a legitimate concern, but to my mind you've adequately addressed it. Too bad he couldn't have just inquired about the measures taken to mitigate any potential damage rather than jumping immediately to accusations.

Nick Lang 8 years ago

Joe, I think you misunderstand the Trailhawks. We are the volunteers who help clean build and maintain these trails at Clinton lake. If you want to follow up on it, contact the Kansas Trails Counsel or even check with Clinton Lake officials. Since the establishment of the trailhawks we've helped build miles of trail, put in new bridges and rerouted segments of trail to assist in drainage. I'm not trying to say we are the only ones, but as trail runners we have to "earn our dirt" as it may be. Also, members of the trailhawks are also members of the trail masons, another group dedicated to the building and preservation of the parks and trails in kansas.

kwhit14 8 years ago

Awesome job to everyone that ran!

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