Photo courtesy of the Des Moines Register

"Race Report: 2007 Living History Farms XC" Part 1

taken from the Pursuit of Runningness Blog written by a local originally from Minnesota.

6,882 cross country runners couldn't go wrong, right? That was the official count at Saturday morning's Living History Farms race, and judging by the endless throngs of eager and colorfully dressed people who showed up, I'd say their count was fairly accurate. With nearly ideal weather conditions, we again experienced the yearly mother-of-all-races and clearly the unique end to each of our running seasons for this year. I've said it before and I'll say it again ... this is definitely THE race to try once in your lifetime.

As there had been a few rumors going around that last year's record of ~5,000 runners was in serious jeopardy of being toppled (more like mangled, as we would soon come to find out), I wisely decided to arrive at the race site ahead of whatever crowds may decide to appear. Although getting into LHF seemed to be rather smooth and efficient, you could already see the multitudes of people who must have had the same idea. Parking was already filling up rather quickly and thoughts of a quick and clean exit strategy was slowly beginning to diminish. None the less, after finding a nice spot to park under a tree near the main road out, I grabbed my winter hat and gloves and made my way down to the registration building. It was just a bit chilly out, I'm guessing around 38 degrees, but the absence of wind and precipitation already seemed to add to the growing excitement in the air.

Entering the registration area, I quickly located my number on the wall and made my way through the line to receive my race number and yearly long-sleeved shirt. The shirts they create for this race are awesome and tend to be a coveted item among many a runner's wardrobe, including that of me and my wife. I have a few in my closet at the moment, and wear them with pride during the colder weather months. After taking a moment to pin my race number to the front of my shirt (which just so happened to be my race shirt from the 2005 event), I headed back out the door and into the crowds growing outside. Having made prior plans to join up and run with a few friends from work, I picked my way through the swelling masses of costumed individuals, of which I saw: Elvis, Dolly Parton, women with pink tu-tus, and men with shark heads. You can't not call this race interesting. Passing the shoeless loincloth man, I found our meeting spot with 40 minutes to go. Within a few minutes, my friend Ryan (also an adventure racing buddy of mine) showed up and we began discussing the record breaking amount of racers sure to show. We both had the gut feeling that the race course was likely to be a bit slower than years past, with all the glut of runners squeezing down wooded paths and across muddy streambeds together. When the rest of our crew showed up, we slowly made our way down to the starting chute and joined the thousands of runners already waiting. Though we normally fight our way to spots near the front of the chute, this morning we were found ourselves at the very back of the pack. This suited us fine, as one of our members was a LHF "newbie" and another had just recovered from foot surgery. Our strategy was just to have a good time and enjoy the race. Today there would be no PR, just the thrill of a pleasant run with friends over hill and dale.

As the national anthem finished up (we actually couldn't hear it from where we were standing), the gun quickly sounded. You could see the front of the pack begin to surge forward. Of course, that surge to begin wouldn't reach us for over another two more minutes as nearly 7,000 runners began to lumber their way onto the 6.8 mile cross country course...

to be continued ...

"Race Report: 2007 Living History Farms XC" Part 2

taken from the Pursuit of Runningness Blog written by a local originally from Minnesota.

It's brisk and chilly at 9:00 a.m. and I'm surrounded by over 6,800 of my closest cross country runner friends, not including the palpable estimation of a few thousand spectators pressing against the fences nearby, as the race starts. I miss the actual moment and fumble to start my watch timer, somehow thinking that an exact recording will end with a credible result in my favor later on. Though we could ultimately view the lead runners heading off at full gazelle-like speeds, over the tops of thousands of winter hats and a few spikey blue haired individuals in front of us, the unfortunate fact is my group of seven individuals would end up waiting a long couple of mintues before the crowd we were in would actually begin to move forward. Moreover, we would not even approach the semblance of running until closer to four minutes into the race. I turned and grinned at my friend Ryan ... ah, Living History Farms is back! And as always, this was going to be an experience we wouldn't soon forget.

Now, the sheer fact of hosting a race with seven thousand runners has its own logistic impacts, but by combining this with such a unique cross country course setting it is simply an incredible experience to be a part of. Finding our way out of the starting area and skirting the edges of the 1875 historic replica town, we clicked off the first mile of our adventure and began our trek west towards the outlying countryside. A quick jaunt through the tunnel which leads runners under the I-35 highway elicited a thundering collaboration of hooting and hollering, which echoed for miles I'm sure. Following the dusty roadway past a large barn and horse-powered farm from the early 1900's, we slowly wound our way onto an uneven and slightly rutted field lane which would carry us for the remainder of mile 2.

Here is where the race ends with the pagentry and gets down to the nitty-gritty that all of us runners love so much. The lane abruptly ended on the edge of an corn field and runners were faced with the actual "cross country" aspect many of them had never prepared themselves for. First, we tackled a small hill to climb up into the field, then we proceeded to dodge the deep ruts and old cornstalks as the course curved us around the outer edge of the field and down into a basin area with a few ponds. Carefully rounding each of these water hazards, we blazed our own trail up a long hill towards the north and into a shallow field as our third mile marker quickly approached. With barely enough time to catch our breath, the course then pulled us directly into the woods for the first of MANY creek crossings we would endure. After a leap of faith and cold water up to our ankles, we dug our hands into the muddy walls and clamored our way back out and onto the trail. Many up and down hills later, we emerged onto yet another corn field that would lead us back east and through an old 1700 Ioway Indian farmstead for the conclusion of mile 4. A small road out of the area then directed us back west towards the next challenge and deftly plunged us deep into the most difficult wooded section the course has to offer.

The next mile would be full of deep creeks and hills so steep that many offered climbing ropes just to scale. One such creek required us to make a decision to either cross via a bed of large rocks or choose to wade further downstream through waist-high water. As cold as that water was, we took the latter challenge and felt our bodies react with shock as we emerged. Needless to say, we needed a few moments afterward to allow our legs to thaw enough to return to our former speed. As we approached the next creek crossing, a sign promptly informed us to make a decision ... "Long and Easy" or "Short and Hard". Oh heck, we can never pass up the opportunity for war stories afterward and quickly chose the shorter route. As we passed the sign and rounded the bend, we were greeted by hundreds of runners thrashing through deep mud and water. I think it was here that I lost a shoe one year and had to dig it out before moving onward. I made sure it wouldn't happen again and took a running leap towards the far shoreline. I was lucky enough to land on solid ground and scrambled up the bank, then turned to help a few of our friends out. Once everyone was on dry land again, our troupe headed up the the horrendously steep hill, bypassing the ropes altogether and instead opting for a quicker route through the younger treeline to the right. This would lead us onto the earlier roadway that then took us back under I-35 and "closer" to civilization. Of course, we wouldn't spend much time getting used to the solid running surface and were quickly directed back down into another wooden portion that would yet again challenge our stamina with frequent hill climbs and decents. Ducking under a walking bridge filled to capacity with cheering onlookers, we dove down into the last of our creek challenges. With each getting progressively harder than the previous one, the final crossing called for us to traverse a mammoth 10+ foot deep crevasse filled with knee deep water and mud. This was itself a tough challenge, as the mud made it next to impossible to climb out the other side. Again, teamwork would save the day. The final leg of our journey was ahead.

Passing the sixth mile marker, we dug into the last of our endurance and slowly made our way up the long hill into a hay field. Normally in years past there would be large round bales of hay lining the final approach, all providing an optional climbing challenge to runners, but not to be this year. Once we reached the top of the hill, our path wound us again south and towards the finish in this little historic town. Rounding a few frontier-styled buildings and pouring on the gas for one final burst of speed, we enthusiastically crossed the line and congratulated each other. We had done it ... we had conquered LHF for yet another year!

A few donuts and a yogurt later, I packed it in and made my way slowly out of the parking area. Though I would face more than an hour's worth of traffic before I would reach home again, I reveled in the fact of how wildly popular and extraordinary this race truely is, and how thankful I was to have something like it to remind me of my desire for running. As most everyone who ran it knew, this race isn't about being swift or clean, though there had been a few of each there this day. The Living History Farms XC Race is more about community and comradery. It's an experience to remember, to share and be shared. And even with all the traffic and congestion runners typically experience each year due to the wild popularity of this race, none of it could ever come close to dousing its runners spirits. They'll only come back hungry for more.

The big question is, will I be back to brave this madness again next year? As my fellow Minnesotans would say, "you-betcha!" Enuff said. Hope you can join me.

My son has run the LHF race for a few years now. I brought him this year and what an amazing site! It was just like a really really big high school cross country meet (with better costumes)! Thank you!

On a sad note, on the way to my car I stopped to take a picture of a couple. I didn't pick up all my belongings and left my digital camera on the ground. I really don't expect that it was turned in. More likely, I expect that it was run over as I was parked in the grass. Could you please reply if a Fuju 3800 Fine Pix digital camera was found. It would have pictures of the boys who ran in bath towels and shower caps. Thanks so much.
Hoping to hear from you,
Michelle Shaw
Ely, IA

First timer here, what a fun race!! I will definitely be back next year.
PS: I apologize to the young girl behind me at the 3rd creek crossing. My foot slipped out and absolutely covered her face in mud! Actually, it was quite funny! J Participant #758
Had a great time and did finish despite turning an ankle half way through the race. You are going to have 10,000 runners before long. How many creek crossings were there? It seemed like a lot!
D.R. Ames, IA
I am hearing impaired, and have to wear a hearing aid. This was the first race I ever ran in, besides high school track. About 2 miles into the race, I was sweating too much to wear the aid, so I put it in a zipper pocket in my jacket. A little further down the track, I also took off my gloves and put them in the same pocket. When we reached the first creek crossing (over by Douglas Ave.) I saw the runners using the ropes to climb the bank, so I thought Id put my gloves back on again. When I pulled them out of my pocket, the hearing aid came out with them, and I was not aware of it! We finished the course, and discovered my hearing aid was missing. We found the staff helpful regarding lost and found, and I left my address with them, in case someone turned it in. After having some doughnuts, etc., we drove over to Douglas, and walked into the creek crossing, and within five minutes we found the hearing aid!! Im sure that nearly two thousand feet had crossed that path after I was thru there, and it was stepped on, kicked, etc. It was pressed down into the sand about five feet from the water! I took it home, cleaned out all the sand and mud, and it works like it always did!!
We enjoyed the race, and hope to do it again sometime. Thank you! Jeff Thayer (#4813).
Good morning. Had a great time this year (as if it's possible not to no matter the weather) and things look like they went off smoothly!
Do you know who I could contact to see if there are any kids shirts left to purchase? Didn't have any cash on race day....

Contact us!

Just a special thanks to all the volunteers and those that make this great event possible. Heard a lot about this run and finally got a chance to participate. It lived up to all that I heard. A great even for celebrating the fun, friends, and nature around running. I will be back to run or volunteer in the future. Thanks again to all and congrats to all participants. A perfect cap to the fall running season.
Good luck to all in the winter training months.
Eric - Omaha via Illinois.
Thanks for the event! Our first time and it lived up to its billing! We'll be back.
Jeff, Hutchinson, MN
Thank you for another fun race!!!! You handled the crowds beautifully and the spirit of XC was in no way deterred by such large numbers! What a wonderful time we had! We have made our hotel reservations for next year!
One of the our contingent placed 3rd in the 14 and under age group and the awards staff was unable to find his award. His name is Ivan Espinosa, from Eudora, Kansas.
My address is 304 Sharon Drive, Lawrence, Kansas 66049 if you wish to work with me (I am his XC coach) or if you want to go directly through Ivan, you have his address.
Thank you again for a great race!
Paul Boone
Lawrence Kansas Sandrats!

We ran the Living History Farms race this year - again - and LOVED it! If we only ran in one a race per year, this would definitely be it. The bests race around - hands down! A quick question - are there posters available? I would like to purchase one if possible. We couldn't find any the morning of the race.
Thanks and continue the great work!!!
Brenda Kaufmann

We didn't do posters this year and we regret it. That will change for nrext year.

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