This article was posted on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
This year’s Trail Loppet is drawing a crowd – both on and off the course. While the race has typically been a showdown among many of the areas fastest cross country skiers, the 2012 Surly Trail Loppet has drawn a slew of running specialists that will put the skiers to the test.
“This is going to be an interesting race,” said top contender Patrick Russell who is looking forward to his first Surly Trail Loppet. “It cuts across different endurance groups. You have trail runners, tri-athletes and cross country skiers. The cross country skiers are usually better trail runners… we’ll see how it all turns out.”
Two time champion and cross country skiing Olympic hopeful Matt Liebsch will have his hands full if he wants to regain his title from two years ago. In addition to Russell, Chris Lundstrom will also be at the start line. Lundstrom qualified for the last three Olympic Trails in the marathon and is considered a favorite in the event.
Both Russell and Lundstrom run for the TC Running Team – a group associated with the TC Running Co. “Our team is about 60-70 people, and we Trails Team of about 15-16 individuals,” said team manager Kurt Decker. Decker has pulled together some of the areas finest runners to the squad. “He’s kind of like the Kevin Bacon of the Twin Cities running scene,” Russell explained. Decker heard of the Trail Loppet through one of the skiers on the team. “I’ve never run it, but I had heard great things,” Decker said. Smaller races often conflict with elite runner’s regimented running schedules, but this year he rallied several racers from the team to compete.
The women’s race will be dominated by skiers with past champion Audrey Weber and Johanna Winters. Weber runs her own trail running series in the metro area, and coaches with the Loppet Foundation’s LNR (Loppet Nordic Racing) Program. “I’m looking forward to racing on my home turf, and I know there will be a very strong women’s field as usual,” Weber said. Mixing things up will be trail running talent Karen Schleper who will add her speed to the lead pack.
As demonstrated early on by this sell out event, trail running has grown significantly in recent years. “It used to be that if you wanted to trail run you could only do ultra-marathons. But the trail scene has been growing with shorter distance races,” noted Russell. “I think the beauty of the Trail Loppet is that it’s appealing to not just trail runners… You have the average runner who is getting out there and says ‘gosh, I’d give that a shot.’ ” Decker added that if given the choice himself, “I’d run on the trail”.
While these shorter races appeal to a greater number of participants – they present a new challenge for runners like Lundstrom and Russell who are accustomed to running longer distances. “Everyone has their strengths on the course; running the uphills, or catching someone on the downhills… Trail running is usually pretty “low key” because (for the ultras) you are spending all day on the course. But with all the ups and downs on the course, this could be pretty intense,” Lundstrom added with a chuckle. “I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I’ve done mostly ultra marathons,” ventured Russell. “I’ve only run at Wirth sparingly… this is the shortest trail run I’ve done.”
So who will it be? The road runners, the skiers, the ultra athletes, or perhaps a ringer that has yet to reveal themselves at the finish line? “This is going to be an exciting event to watch,” said Foundation Director John Munger with a smile. “Could be anyone out there.” Could be… Come to Wirth Park Saturday at 9am to see for yourself.
To learn more about attending the event as a spectator, visit http://www.loppet.org/trailloppet/