Endurance Run on Florida Rail-Trail Tests the World’s Best

Posted 01/26/14 by Chris Rodatz in Trail Use

Photo © of Iron Horse Endurance Runs

For the past six years, the Lake Butler-to-Palatka Trail has played host to the Iron Horse Endurance Race, an ultramarathon that spans 100 miles (with 100-km and 50-mile options) from Florahome to Palatka. On Feb. 15, 2014, 150 runners from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Germany and Mexico will “toe the line” in this test of iron wills. Here’s a brief glimpse of last year’s Feb. 9 event, courtesy of Race Director Chris Rodatz:

The weather…

It was a picture-perfect day for a race. The temperatures were in the low-to-mid 70s during the day and in the high 40s at night. No moon; all the stars were crystal clear. There was just a wee bit of humidity during the day. But, hey, we have no hills or mountains, so there has to be an equalizer.

The course…

Until 2012, the races were run entirely on the rail-trail. However, due to the paving of the trail, and some deteriorating trestles, part of the race is now run through a state forest on softer forest-service roads. In 2013, Etoniah Creek State Forest made for a superior running surface.

We had 154 runners start off at 7 a.m. This was the biggest field yet in the eight-year history of the race.

Memorable…

Unstoppable is what best describes 41-year-old Floridian Mike Morton on the 100 track. He finished in a time of 13 hours, 14 minutes and 31 seconds. Figure out what that is in minutes per mile! Twenty-five-year-old Allyson Weimer from Oklahoma did the women proud, breaking the female record by almost 30 minutes in a time of 17 hours and 46 seconds. 

One of the runners asked us about pythons. Hey, with all these records being broken, consideration will have to be given to maybe importing said pythons or adding some swamp crossings this year to make it more challenging. (Only kidding!)

Really memorable…

No event is without its tense moments, of course. It was about 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, and I was dozing next to the finish line when my cell phone rang; it is a runner on the way through the forest informing me there is a forest fire next to the trail! That sent this race director’s blood pressure right through the stratosphere. Only a race director could appreciate the feeling of having to consider rerouting a course in the middle of a pitch-black forest in the early morning hours.

Fortunately, with the swift attention of the local fire department and forest service, the fire was contained and the race continued.

At the end of the day…

Iron Horse is known for its family atmosphere, with its signature burgers, brats and beer, and burn barrels at night. This low-key, friendly environment is what keeps runners coming back year after year.

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