The leaves rustled from the light wind as the sun rose, easing the darkness away on this cloudy morning. The runners had accustomed themselves to the constant splish…splash…squish coming from their footfalls into the unknown mushy darkness below. Now that morning had broken, the rain eased up and the footfalls became closer to pitter…patter…hop to avoid the water-filled and muddied trail spots. And yes, some runners did temporarily lose their shoes to this greedy trail but the trail happily returned those shoes, now stained a shade darker for the remainder of the day.
For the first time since the conception of this race, the course during Surf the Murph was wet – very wet at that. Usually the upper Midwest experiences dry weather during late October (Mother Nature usually uses autumn as preparation time for abundant snow making, right?), however this 7th running of Surf the Murph on October 24, 2015 was anything but clean and dry.
Surf the Murph is a loop course, each loop covering 16.7 miles. The terrain is 90 percent double-track trail on rolling hills. Runners choose their pain: one, two or three loops, aka 25 km, 50 km or 50 mile races. Despite the wet trail, the brilliant fall colors of Murphy-Hanrehan Park in Savage, Minnesota remained as gorgeous as previous years.
About 375 racers grazed the trails, undaunted by the drizzly and muddy beginnings of the day. Ultrarunners have that way about them; they step out into the situation, shrug, and make remarks such as, “It is what it is.” No whining and no complaints are heard as they rise above the situation. As the day progressed, racers even began to happily comment that the trail was drying out very nicely. Perseverance goes to show that some things will only improve with time. In fact, more than 85 percent of the starting field finished. In the land of ultras, that is a high finisher rate.
Surf the Murph is the brain-child of Les Martisko, a former 2:55 marathoner. Now is his early 70s and still race directing Surf the Murph, Les has finished 375 ultra marathons, proudly displaying this on the back of his racing jersey to motivate fellow racers. In fact, now Les has finished 376 ultras since he finished the 50 mile this year. Due to his experience, Les understands the front-runners as well as he does the back-of-the-packers. Therefore, Surf the Murph offers aid stations every three to four miles and they are all well-stocked from early in the race to late in the day. Also, pacers are allowed and encouraged. Above all, there are generous cut-off times (13 hours for 50 km and 14 hours for 50 mile) to give extra opportunity for the every runner to capture a finish.
This year several runners achieved their first 50 mile finish, including Bob Marsh, Janet Gray, and Melanie Danke, who captured many first-time finisher’s emotions so well by sharing, “I’m sure you all understand the crazy, breathless, description-defying feeling of finishing your first ultra and you all made it possible for me. I’m so, so happy and so, so proud. Thanks, too, to the volunteers that stuck around until the bitter end. They were adorable and kind and enthusiastic. One of the best, most fun days ever.”
Remaining true to its roots, Surf the Murph rewards the costumed overwhelming more than the fleet of foot. Earning top honors were a pirate (aka Karen Gall), “My Toe on Lap 3” (aka Kevin Hill), the 80s Girls (aka Heather Schlagel, Heather Sailer, Jenny Lettenmaier, and Heidi Williams), “On Your Right” (aka Mike Jurasits) and “On Your Left (aka Mishka Vertin), the Trail Newbie dressed in hockey gear to protect himself (aka Radek Lopusnik), a Zom-bee (aka Nicole Hansen), and many more who dared show their true costume colors. The costumes are a huge part of our fun every year.
A big THANK YOU goes out to all involved in Surf the Murph from year to year: the runners, the volunteers, and Three Rivers Park District.