Written by Jamison Swift


Photo Credit – Fresh Tracks Media

Stories. All trail runners love to tell stories. It’s a foregone conclusion that when you start talking trails with another runner, you’re going to hear about some incredible experience that they’ve had, and you’re going to be anxious to share your own. We love to talk about what we’ve seen out on the trails, because being out on the trails changes us as people. On the trail we learn to deal with who we are in our heads, and persevere through pain and adversity. I’ve often felt that the best trail stories aren’t from those who crush the course and stand on the podium, but from those back-of-the-pack runners who struggle through every footstep to get one more step closer to their goal.

The story of Spring Superior 2017 starts, as all stories in Minnesota do, with the weather. Spring along the North Shore of Minnesota can be a grab bag of rain, snow, heat, wind and cold. Every runner meticulously checks the forecast for days, trying to get a glimpse of how to best dress. For 2017, Minnesota decided to give us cool temps with a breeze. An overcast sky kept the sun from baking runners who were out all afternoon (as happened in 2016). With high temps in the 40s, it ended up being the perfect weather for running through the woods. The biggest threat was the impending rain, which fortunately held off until late in the evening when everything had been packed up.

Spring Superior is also often a story of mud. Every 2015 Spring Superior runner will happily share with you the story of how far up their legs the mud went. The warm, dry temps of 2016 meant that we all received a respite from our earthly exfoliation, but this year, the mud returned. It was impossible to avoid getting dirty. As I stood taking pictures of runners deftly moving across Mystery Mountain, I reminded them that every mud bath is bragging rights to their friends back home.

Despite some mud, the cool weather fueled some amazing times. Ben Cogger returned after a year away to reclaim his title as the 50K male champion. Although there was a battle for first place early in the race, Ben pulled away and crushed the course record with an impressive 3:45:28. On the women’s side, Emily Gordon (former 25K record holder) made her Superior 50K debut with another course-record-shattering time of 4:30:32.

In the 25K race, newcomer Matthew Berens took home the prize for the men with a time of 1:45:56, having led right from the start. Returning 2014 women’s champion Emma Spoon crushed the aforementioned 25K course record with a solid 2:00:26. Ben, Emily, Matthew and Emma will have tons of stories to share about their amazing accomplishments in the weeks to come. All of them embodied the perseverance and determination that is required to conquer the rugged Sawtooth Mountains, and to set the bar even higher for those that will come after them.

One of the truths about stories is that they all come to an end. Our lives are a story of the things that we’ve done and accomplished, and the relationships that we’ve built. Trail running is about a community that comes together to share and experience our stories together. This year, the story of Spring Superior will forever be linked with the end of the story for a beloved Minnesota trail runner. Veteran Spring Superior 25K runner Jon Mathson collapsed on the trail between Moose and Mystery Mountains. The community of runners around him lept into action, and soon he was surrounded by experienced nurses and first responders. Jon passed away on this trail that he knew and loved.

As the story of what happened spread throughout the race village, people continued to do their jobs, albeit with heavy hearts. Although the community was shocked and saddened, everyone took comfort that no one at Spring Superior is ever alone, no matter your position in the standings. As a community of trail runners, we stand together to mourn the loss of our friend and to help support his family.

We don’t like to link our memories of places with bad events. Yet, we know that we will all return next year, and run with passion and love for the trail and the world that surrounds it. We will carry the story of 2017 Spring Superior with us into the future, knowing that our shared narrative brings us into a community of amazing people, amazing places, and more stories yet to come.

A final run of the numbers:
2017 50KM Race: Registered 287, Started 238, DNS 17%, Finished 229, DNF 9, Finish Rate 96%
2017 25KM Race: Registered 369, Started 303, DNS 18%, Finished 301, DNF 2, Finish Rate 99%
2017 Combined#: Registered 656, Started 541, DNS 18%, Finished 530, DNF 11, Finish Rate 98%

Superior Spring Trail Race
50KM, 25KM & 12.5KM
Lutsen, Minnesota
Saturday May 16, 2020
50KM 7:00AM
25KM 8:00AM
12.5KM 9:00AM

Registration / Lottery:
Opens Wednesday January 1st, 2020 – 12:01AM CST
Closes Wednesday January 15th, 2020 – 11:59PM CST
* Due to high demand, registration for the Superior “Spring” Trail Race is held via a lottery, more details about the lottery can be found HERE

Directions to Race Start:
Caribou Highlands Resort / Lodge
371 Ski Hill Road
Lutsen, MN 55612
Google Maps Directions HERE
Approx Travel Times
1:15 North of Two Harbors, MN
1:45 North of Duluth, MN
4:00 North of Minneapolis, MN

Terrain / Course Description:
The Superior 12.5KM, 25KM and 50KM Trail Races are extremely hilly, rugged and technical out-and-back (100% trail) trail-races which traverses the Sawtooth Mountain Range on the Superior Hiking Trail in the far reaches northern Minnesota .  The course parallels Lake Superior, the greatest freshwater lake in the world, climbs to near 2000′ peaks with breath-taking vistas of the lake and inland forests and crosses whitewater rivers and serene streams while meandering through mystic Boreal forests.  The races start and finish at Caribou Highlands Resort in Lutsen Minnesota.

Superior 50KM
25KM Out & Back Course = 50KM (31MI)
Elevation Gain 4,200 FT
Elevation Loss 4,200 FT
NET Elevation Change 8,400 FT
4 Aid Stations
9 Hour Time Limit
Starts at 7:00AM Saturday
Compete 50KM Info HERE

Superior 25KM
12.5KM Out & Back Course = 25KM (15.1MI)
Elevation Gain 2,300 FT
Elevation Loss 2,300 FT
NET Elevation Change 4,600 FT
1 Aid Station
8 Hour Time Limit
Starts Saturday at 8:00AM
Complete 25KM Info HERE

Superior 12.5KM
12.5KM Point to Point Course. 12.5KM = 7.75MI
Elevation Gain  900 FT
Elevation Loss 1,050 FT
NET Elevation Change 1,950 FT
NO Aid Stations
7 Hour Time Limit
Starts Saturday at 9:00AM
Complete 12.5KM Info HERE

More About the Area:
The North Shore of Lake Superior runs from Duluth, Minnesota at the Southwestern end of the lake, to Thunder Bay and Nipigon, Ontario, Canada, in the North to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in the east. The shore is characterized by alternating rocky cliffs and cobblestone beaches, with rolling hills and ridges covered in boreal forest inland from the lake, through which scenic rivers and waterfalls descend as they flow to Lake Superior. The shoreline between the city of Duluth to the international border at Grand Portage as the North Shore.  Lake Superior is considered the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. It is the world’s third-largest freshwater lake by volume and the largest by volume in North America.  The Superior Hiking Trail, also known as the SHT, is a 310-mile long distance hiking single-track hiking trail in Northeastern Minnesota that follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior for most of its length. The trail travels through forests of birch, aspen, pine, fir, and cedar. Hikers and runners enjoy views of boreal forests, the Sawtooth Mountains, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. The lowest point on the trail is 602 feet above sea level and the highest point is 1,829 feet above sea level.