SHT is an SRT too
I run a trail organization. I do not run trails.
In fact, as someone who left my unremarkable running career behind with my high school track team, I had no idea there was such a thing as trail running until I started my job at SHTA. That ignorance got a few snickers on a frigid night last January, when I said it out loud at the Twin Cities Running Co. store in Eden Prairie. Store manager Kurt Decker arranged a fundraiser for the Trail. He asked me to make a few remarks. That was when I promptly put my non-running foot in my mouth in front of 150+ trail runners. From what I could tell, they forgave me.
I have learned a ton about trail running and trail runners ever since. (I do occasionally run on the SHT, when I’m running late and need to get to my car.) Trail runners are clearly committed to and passionate about their sport. And scores, maybe hundreds of them, translate that passion into support for the Superior Hiking Trail, through volunteering, advising, and donating cash.
Storkamp: Rocksteady Running, Trail Running Rock Star
Premier among the trail runner support for the Superior Hiking Trail is John Storkamp, founder of Rocksteady Running, known and believed in the trail running world as producer of not only the most prominent trail race on the SHT – the Superior Trail Races (spring and fall) — but one of the most prominent trail races in the country.
What doesn’t John do for us? Reliable chain sawyer, Volunteer Crew Leader, generous donor (both business and personal), promoter and ambassador, wise adviser with a carefully honed esprit critique. Especially valuable are John’s exhortations to Superior Race runners to donate to the SHTA. Quoth John, from his most recent pitch:
“As we reflect on the Superior Trail Races 100 Mile, 50 mile and 26.2 Mile this past weekend, I issue YOU the following challenge: to support the Superior Hiking Trail by becoming a member of the Superior Hiking Trail Association OR making an additional donation – how about 50, 60, 70 or why not 80+ new members from this post alone – it can be done!”
And “done” it was – we received over 100 membership gifts and donations worth over $8,500 from John and his appeals this year, and we’re certain scores of our members have come to us over the years via the Superior Trail Races.
Runners Know Trail – and Community
Hiking traditionalists might ask, “How can you enjoy the scenery and solitude of the SHT if you’re running?” That may be hard – but it may not be the point of trail running, either. When I’ve asked then about the appeal of trail running, trail runners will almost certainly say it’s more enjoyable, safer, and easier on your body, than road running. They all underscore the benefits of mind, body and spirit in the physical and mental challenge of taking on a trail race. Some of the spiritual benefits (in the secular sense of that word) come from the deep sense of community and camaraderie trail runners feel with each other. Trail races are less about competition and more about communion around challenge and effort and accomplishment.
Maybe trail runners miss the panoramas that hikers take in, but the minutiae of the Trail itself is not lost on them – a zen-like focus is required to put each foot in the right place while moving fast. I learned this from someone who ran trail before trail running was cool, around the time the SHT was founded.
Dennis Rysdahl, owner (then and now) of Bluefin Bay Resort ran on national forest trails in the Tofte area from the time he built Bluefin Bay in the early 1980s. As the SHT was being built, and as he guided the Association in its early days as a founding board member, Dennis ran the SHT. He recalls that as he ran, “You’re looking 8 or 10 feet in front of you. And in doing that, I noticed — still notices — the small details that (early trail builder) Tom Peterson put in, and I thought, ‘Thank you, Tom, you did a great job.’”
How Trail Runners Contribute
- Siiri Morse, organizer of Grand Traverse Duluth, donated $2,000 to the SHTA from this year’s event.
- Upper Midwest Trail Runners donates a nice sum annually (in 2017 it was $3,812) to the SHTA and recently paid for meals and camping for volunteers at the Crow Creek (North) project.
- Every summer, volunteers from the Northern Minnesota Track Club grab weed whippers and clean up the edges of the SHT in Duluth – a noisy, gritty task that many volunteers shy away from.
- In October, Wild Duluth race directors Andy and Kim Holak asked runners to support the Trail in honor of their 10th anniversary of the race. In June, SHTA member and volunteer Mike Ward asked racers to donate to the Trail at his Chester Park Trail 5k.
- Twin Cities Running Co. hosted SHTA for a fundraiser in January and made a $4,000 gift to support the Split Rock Bridge project.
- Of the first crop of Volunteer Crew Leaders, a program created for our Trail Renewal Program, three of the four – Stephanie Hoff, John Storkamp and Todd Rowe – are trail runners. (Don’t worry, fourth VCL Kris Nurmi – this is not a requirement!)
By Denny Caneff, SHTA executive director
This article was originally published in the 2018 Fall Ridgeline newsletter. Join SHTA to support the Trail and receive your copy of the Ridgeline.