It is September and once again I am back in the USA with my Minnesota family. I was going to write a preview of the 2019 edition and decided that I would re-post my experience of first coming to Superior, Minnesota and meeting the family…
The 2019 edition will doubt be another awesome experience with female course record holder and 2018 champion, Mallory Richard returning to race. The 2019 male Champion, Neal Collick, this year will join the race but as a volunteer. Therefore, the two favorites to go head-to-head are Michael Borst and Mick Jurynec. For either of them to come close to Collick’s sub 19-hour run will be truly impressive!
SUPERIOR 100, USA
And so it began. It was my first time in Minnesota and in all honesty, I knew very little about this area and more importantly, I was somewhat ignorant about the proximity to Canada. You see, too much information can lead to disappointment and more importantly, it can cloud judgement. I like to be a canvas, primed and ready but without the stroke of a brush. Like any painting, I like to lay down a base, build up the layers and finish it off with a frame. The end result may well be a masterpiece but in the early stages, who knows?
Off the bat, Kurt Decker, my host and on-hand guide whilst on my voyage of discovery was a welcoming and bubbling knowledge of local running. Decker has been involved in running for 20+ years and is currently working as a manager at Minneapolis run store, Twin Cities Running Company. ‘Dude, it’s so great to have you join us,’ he wasn’t ruffled or angry at my extensive 3-hour delay at passport control. ‘You are going to stay with my family and we have a ‘RV’ all lined up for you to make your stay easy and provide you with some privacy.’
‘You are going to love this race Dude, Superior 100 is a real tough race and we are so happy to have you come and see it for yourself.’ Decker was enthusiastic; no, he was passionate, he overflowed with running enthusiasm.
Running brings people together, together in a way like no other; it crosses boundaries, crosses countries and binds like a harmonious family. I’d been in Minneapolis for just over an hour and I already knew that I was going to love this place.
Aaron Ehlers is a young guy with a family, new to ultra he has a fire within. Last year he bailed (did not finish) at Superior and this year he was going back; unfinished business. More miles, more focus and an understanding of what’s required to complete 100-miles. On the roads to Duluth we chewed the fat. He knows the sport of ultra, ‘I just want to learn, soak up the sport and become better. Even my wife Mary, has found the passion. At Superior she will run her first 50-miler.’ A new friend, Aaron feels like an old friend. A bond made in sport but ultimately a great guy to hang with. Selfless and giving, Aaron is a true Minnesota guy.
Two black spiral earrings, Mohican haircut, black t-shirt with a huge artistic print and cargo shorts, John Storkamp looks like a rock star. He greets me with a hug and the shake of hands, ‘It’s great to have you here man.’ Storkamp is the RD for the Superior 100, a runner himself; he has a resume that deserves respect. Modest in approach, he welcomes each and every runner as they arrive for packet pickup (collecting race numbers). ‘Welcome to the Superior 100, the rugged, the most relentless and remote 100 miler in the USA now let me hear you howl like a wolf.’
The response is loud and spine chilling. Without wishing to bore everyone, Storkamp provides a brief history of the race, the journey of 100-miles along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). ‘This race follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior, a ridgeline of the Sawtooth Mountains. It’s gnarly, tough, rutted and many of you won’t finish.’
Storkamp has a twinkle in his eye, the challenge he and his wife Cheri provide is tough, the runners know it. But they want everyone to achieve and as he says, not all of them will, however, they need to be on the journey with a chance of completing and if they make the finish or not, lives will be changed. Storkamp knows the enormity of the task and the responsibility he has. Like a father, the runners are his children; if possible he will nurture them to the line.
You can’t run without aid stations and volunteers. It just can’t happen. Those who are passionate about the sport often pay back with a volunteer stint at an aid station, marking the course or manning road crossings. After all, we are all runners’ right? Imagine working an aid for 16 consecutive years; Mum, Dad, Son and Daughter. A family enterprise! The selfless task of helping others and asking nothing in return, that’s the Immerfall family. An inspiration to all and believe it or not, they are not runners. They just want to give and have pleasure in the act. In 2014, Storkamp welcomed them into the Superior 100 hall of fame. An award that stirred emotions, many shed a tear when the award was given, a standing ovation somehow feeling inadequate.
Arguably the happiest runner and most grateful runner I have ever witnessed, Kevin Langton illuminated the trails as he ran the race. ‘Thank you for being here guys and supporting.’ Running with a smile and grin, whenever he passed he repeated, ‘Thank you for being here guys and supporting.’ You’ve got to love this sport. Despite the difficulty, despite the fatigue, despite sore legs and being mentally tired, Langton’s smile never slipped, the positivity never wavered. Oberg, 93-miles, Langton’s family welcomed him with a hug and high fives, ‘let’s get this done’ he said.
Bridesmaid at Superior 100 twice before, in 2011 and 2010, Adam Schwarz-Lowe really wanted a win at Superior, would 2014 be the one? A sub 20-hour running at the iconic Western States earlier in the year showed the form was good. On the trails of the ‘SHT’ Schwarz-Lowe bided his time and eventually made his move with three quarters of the race covered. Buckle in hand the victory was his.
Only one man and one lady can top the podium. So why run? Superior 100 provided many answers to this question; the race provided a collective gathering of many individual passions that came together to create one wonderful whole. Each runner, from first to last; a welcome warrior who achieved greatness on the trails of Minnesota and the SHT. Storkamp told them all the experience would change them, it did, I am sure of it. It not only changed them, it changed me… And once again I am back for my annual pilgrimage to Minnesota, Superior 100 the jagged Sawtooth Mountains that run parallel to Lake Superior.
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