2024 Back 9 Endurance Run Recap

Memorial Day Weekend brought runners from across the region to the Lodge to challenge themselves on the wilderness trails at the top of the Keweenaw. The weather was nearly perfect for the endurance runners that participated in the 4th annual Back 9 Endurance Run. Capped at 40 runners to ensure the wilderness experience of the run, we had 18 individuals participate this year.

The team at the Lodge spent the days before the event preparing the course. We cleared the trails over a 2-3 week period, as team members ran and walked the route – picking up twigs, leaves, and small rocks by hand and with a leaf blower. When clearing the trail, we try to envision what it is like to be a tired runner on the course at 3:00am and make the course as clear as possible. This is also what we think about when flagging the course. Small reflective orange flags are put up every 50 yards, which provide a consistent reminder to runners that they are on course. We believe there is a fine line for the right amount of flagging –too few flags and the runner might question if they are on the right trail, and too many flags and it might take away from the beautiful northwoods setting of the event.

The KML team flagging the course.

The race format stayed the same where individual runners or teams chose to run for either 12 or 24 hours. In that time, they run as many laps as they can. Each lap started and ended at the gazebo next to the historic Lodge building. As runners completed each lap, they recorded their lap time, and then either headed out for another lap or “X out” on the board and called it a race! This race is designed to let individual runners and teams push their limits and see how many laps they can go around the course. This is where our slogan for the race “Just One More Round” comes from.

A runner writes down his lap time on the board set up in the Gazebo.

The race started at 8:00 AM on May 25th, 2024. KML Team member, Amy Oestreich, gave the official countdown and the runners were off. It was a beautiful morning; the sun was shining, and it was quiet and serene – just what the top of the Keweenaw is known for. The temperature was 47 degrees (a cool start), a great beginning to a wonderful spring day.

The start of the 2024 Back 9 Endurance Run.

Some of the runners stayed together for the first lap, however as the day progressed people slowly spread out – a natural progression of the race. Pretty soon most runners are alone on the course, finding a personal groove. The Back 9 Endurance Run creates a connection between the runners and the land. You get to know each climb and each descent creating an intimacy with the course, allowing you to immerse yourself into the natural surroundings.

Team Twinkle Toes enjoying the beautiful morning.

Most of the participants thought the temperature for the event was perfect for running. Temps briefly reached into the mid 60’s in the afternoon with a high of 65 at 5:00pm. From there the temperature slowly dropped to 50.4 degrees at 4:10am before the morning twilight set in.

Screenshot showing the temperature range during the race from the Lodge’s Ambient weather station.
Screenshot showing the temperature range during the race from the Lodge’s Ambient weather station.
All smiles as two runners make their way down the Moose On The Loose Trail.

Throughout the day and night runners were treated to many culinary delights from our Rustic Worldly Food kitchen. In the morning savory muffins made with zucchini, ham and cheese were served along with hard boiled eggs. The afternoon brought house made empanadas filled with tofu, cabbage, carrots, onions and delicate Asian sauce along with a colorful vegetarian pasta salad. In the evening a hearty soup with fresh naan bread was served to warm up the runners.

Treats from the Rustic Worldly Food Kitchen at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.
A hearty soup is served in the evening for runners to warm up with.

Between 7:00pm and 7:30pm runners have to decide if they can finish another lap. The 12 hour race ends at 8:00 pm and partial laps do not count. Some runners make it to 8:00pm while others cross themselves off the board earlier in the day having achieved their goal. This year Mariana Grohowski won the solo 12 hour event with 13 Laps covering 47.84 Miles. There were no 12 hour team entries so there was only one 12 hour winner for 2024.

The 12 hour results were as follows:

  1. Mariana Grohowski: 13 Laps / 47.84 miles
  2. Jose Rios: 11 Laps / 40.48 miles
  3. Dean Keteri: 8 Laps / 29.44 miles
  4. Erin Bourion : 7 Laps / 25.76 miles
  5. Jeremy Forst: 6 Laps / 22.08 miles
  6. Dan Motowski: 5 Laps / 18.4 miles
  7. Kristin Beck: 5 Laps / 18.4 miles
The 12 hour race winner Mariana Grohowski completed 13 Laps covering 47.84 miles.

As the day turns to night the KML team rushes to put out the lights that help guide the runners through the night. We use 60 solar powered ground lights and 30 USB-rechargeable hanging lanterns. These lights aren’t powerful enough to light a runner’s way, participants still need to use a headlamp, however they are mostly used to help guide you on the course. One runner called them, “small beacons of hope.”

Night lights are set up around the course to help guide the runners.

The twilight soon turned to darkness and the runners headed out into the night using headlamps. The nearly full moon (95.2% of full) was unfortunately obscured by cloud cover. A new addition to the event this year was lighting the Lodge’s Flamestacker fire pit as a place for participants and their support teams to relax and warm up.

We lit the fire pit as a place for runners and their support teams to gather.

In the middle of the night, at about 12:30am, a thunderstorm rolled across the tip of the Keweenaw, with lightning seen across the horizon. There were a few runners out on the course (including myself; I cut my lap short and headed to the staging area), with one of the runners just finishing a lap. We made a decision to hold the runners from heading back onto the course until the storm passed. We put the safety of everyone in the forefront with this decision making. Soon after making this decision, Kurt, who was leading the race, came in from his lap. He was wet and (amazingly) smiling. He updated the group with the current conditions. It was just a light rain at this point so we decided to let the runners back out onto the course.

The thunderstorm that rolled across the tip of the Keweenaw in the middle of the night.

Night soon turned to twilight and the sun soon cracked the horizon. It was a calm and peaceful morning. Around 7:00 am runners have to decide if their tired bodies can handle another quick lap. When the clock read 8:00 am the race was over. This year we used the Class Room (which is part of the Lodge’s Education Center) as the indoor staging area for the event. The group gathered inside to review the results and award the winners of the 24 hour event. Kurt Johnson completed a monster run and set a new course record of 24 laps (that’s an average of 1 lap per hour) covering 88.32 miles. Team Twinkle Toes took home the medal for 24 hour 4-person team with 26 laps covering 95.68miles

The 24 hour solo results were as follows:

  1. Kurt Johnson: 24 Laps / 88.32 miles (course record)
  2. Isaac Kangas: 17 Laps / 62.52 miles (1:10am)
  3. Jack Johnson: 17 Laps / 62.52 miles (1:48am)

The 24 hour team (4 persons) results were as follows:

  1. Team Twinkle Toes – 26 total laps / 95.68 miles
    Richard Budek: 7 Laps / 25.76 miles
    Sunil Shrestha: 7 Laps / 25.76 miles
    Ashley Shrestha: 6 Laps / 22.08 miles
    Trisha Lightfoot: 6 Laps/ 22.08 miles
  2. Team Run Around – KML – 13 Laps / 47.84 miles
    John Mueller: 4 Laps / 14.72 Miles
    Chris Guibert: 4 Laps / 14.72 Miles
    Amy Oestreich: 3 Laps / 11.04 Miles
    Martin Mueller: 2 Laps / 7.36 Miles
24 hour solo runner Kurt Johnson sets the course with 24 Laps totaling 88.32 miles.
Team Twinkle Toes celebrates their victory.

This event is about achieving personal or team goals and having fun. That might be to run one lap or 24 laps, everyone’s goals are different. Yes – there are medals awarded in different categories, however most people participate to challenge themselves and to enjoy a day and/or night of running the trails around the Lodge. We encourage all runners, no matter what your skill level is to come out and enjoy a fun, joyous and adventuresome run while connecting with nature.

Back 9 Endurance runners make their way around the course.
A fun, joyous and adventuresome day.
A runner is immersed in the Northwoods that surrounds the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.

Interesting Note: People trail run for many reasons; exercise, personal challenges and getting out in nature are just a few. Some runners seek the elusive “runner’s high”, however studies show that most will not achieve one. During a run your body releases hormones called endorphins which can help prevent muscle pain, however they do not produce a “runners high” as popular culture suggests. Learn more from David J. Linden’s article, The Truth Behind ‘Runner’s High’ and Other Mental Benefits of Running, where he elaborates on this topic.

Last modified on June 16th, 2024 at 4:20 pm