Hungry Like a Wolf - Photo Credit Ian Corless

Photo Credit – Ian Corless

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: there’s nothing quite like Superior.  It’s where roots and rocks lay waste to west-coasters who think they’ll breeze to a course record. Where you can only feel the elevation profile – “death by a thousand paper cuts” – once the damage has been done. Where the sharp basalt shoreline rises stark from the frigid, blue knife’s edge at the meeting of the north woods and the lake that they call Gitchee Gumee… Sawtooth. The Big Dance. Whatever you call it, Superior is here, baby.

One of the original dozen-or-so trail hundred-milers in the US, Superior doesn’t look quite the same as when it started in 1991. Now point-to-point from Gooseberry Falls to Lutsen (and featuring a 50-mile and 26.2-mile race that also end at Lutsen), the 103.3-mile race features 21,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss), 95 percent singletrack, and a 38-hour cutoff for the 250-odd (250 odd?) runners taking part. It’s impeccably-marked, and incredibly scenic, though I don’t recommend looking up, lest you spill yourself and the contents of your race vest all over the Crosby-Manitou section. (Speaking from experience, if you do this, remember to check if you still have all your GUs collected before you continue.  Conditions have been cool, and they’ve been hot and humid; they’ve been muddy, and they’ve been dry; they’ve been great, and other years they’ve been terrible. Welcome to September on the North Shore.

The Races
Please follow my contact info at for corrections to this section. Please write on my Facebook wall on in the comments section of my Instagram (@alexpkurt) with any subjective quibbles. For spelling errors, direct your complaints to Adam Lindahl at [email protected] or (952)239-5351.

100 Mile (starts Friday morning)
Course: Gooseberry Falls State Park to Lutsen, MN.
Stats: See above. 27 States, four countries, 60 percent attempting their first Superior 100.
History: Founded in 1991, it retraces the famous migratory patterns of Minnesota’s long-absent mastadons. Really? No. Tweet your corrections to @apkurt.
Actual distance: 103.3 miles. You get a “100 Mile” sticker and a “5K” sticker at the end.

Some Notable Participants:
Mark Gilligan: founder of, who is mysteriously seeded first in ultrasignup’s very scientific rankings.
-Joe Uhan: Minnesota native, Ultrarunning Magazine contributor, physio extraordinaire, and 2012 Western States ninth-place finisher (16:13:14).
-Adam Schwarz-Lowe: 2014 winner after multiple “bridesmaid” performances. Has apparently been helping Uhan recon the course.
-Mallory Richard: 2015 Black Hills (*overall*) 100 champ, 5th at Bighorn this year.
-Tina Johnson: 2nd last year.
-Casey Ulman, Crystal Hutchings, Joe Fejes, Brian Klug, Marcus Berggren, Scott Hoberg, Gary Davis, Frank Pipp, Garrett Peltonen, Rob Henderson, Steven Graupner, and this is why we run the race and don’t hold it on paper.
-Chrissy and Stan Ferguson: founders of the Arkansas Traveler races – which like Superior were founded in 1991.
-Paul Holovnia: the man.
-GRAND MASTERS: John Maas, Doug Kleemeier and Bob McGrath (and that’s just the local bunch) are in their 50s now, so this should be an exciting race. Shelley Groenke and Janet Hausken could battle on the women’s side.

Record Finishes:
Stuart Johnson (Shawnee, Kansas) is looking for #19; Susan Donnelly (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) #16; Daryl Saari (Rochester) and Jerry Frost (St. Louis) #10 – only two other people in the history of the race have 10 or more finishes; Eugene Curnow and Chris Hanson.

50 Mile
Course: Finland to Lutsen, MN; 12,500 feet of elevation change.
Stats: 175 runners, 56 female; 18 states, three countries. 78 percent attempting their first Superior 50.
Actual Distance: 52.1 miles.

Some Notable Participants:
-Michael Borst: third-fastest time on the modern 100-mile course; won Voyageur big this year.
-Kurt Keiser: Won the Zumbro 50 and Afton 50K; former Team USA Minnesota athlete.
-Brent Loberg: second last year.
-Toby Henkels: former U of MN All-American and Big Ten Champ at 800m.
-Lindsay Henkels: Zumbro 50 winner, also a former Gopher.
-Rochelle Wirth: contending for both Grand Masters and overall titles. Finished third at Superior 50K in 2012.
-Kelly Johnson-Runions: won the marathon last year.

Record Finishes:
Michael Scandrett is going for #7; Tom Weigt for #5

Moose Mountain Marathon
Course: Schroder to Lutsen, MN. 5,500 feet of elevation change.
Actual Distance: 26.2. Huh.

Some Notable Participants:
-Jake Hegge: won the 100 last year and set a course record; second at Voyageur this year.
-Ben Kampf: won in 2013 and 2014, second last year. His face is probably red right now.
-David Hackworthy: third at Afton this year.
-Andy Holak: should have a shot at the Master’s title (those were John’s words, not mine, Andy).
-Christine Loza: won the Chippewa 50K and third at Afton this year.
-John Horns: trains with Loza, and two-time 100-mile winner, could have a shot at the Grand Master title; Rob Class, 56, could give him a race, though.

Superior: The Book
Those wanting a more thorough and…accurate take on Superior’s history should check out Superior: 100 Mile Endurance Run, One of America’s Oldest, Toughest and Gnarliest Ultramarathons by our own Kevin Langton. Word is he’ll be selling copies at the race.

Langton Book

~ Alex Kurt is a Minnesota native, Superior Trail Race finisher and Contributing Editor at Trail Runner Magazine

Superior Fall Trail Race
100MI, 50MI, 26.2MI Trail Race(s)
Lutsen, Minnesota
(approx 4hrs North of Minneapolis, MN)
September 11 & 12, 2020
100MI Friday 8:00AM
50MI Saturday 5:15AM
26.2MI Saturday 8:00AM

Registration / Lottery:
Registration via 15 day lottery registration period.
Opens Wednesday January 1st, 2020 – 12:01AM CST
Closes Wednesday January 15th, 2020 – 11:59PM CST
Complete Lottery / Registration Details HERE

100MI Start: Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN HERE
50MI Start: Finland Rec Center – Finland, MN HERE
26.2MI Start: Cramer Road – Schroder, MN HERE
Races Finish: Carbibou Highlands – Lutsen, MN HERE

The Superior Fall Trail Races 100MI, 50MI & 26.2MI are run on rugged, rooty, rocky, 95% single-track trail with near constant climbs and descents.  The race is held on the Superior Hiking Trail in the Sawtooth Mountains paralleling Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota / not far from the Canadian border.  The race located approximately 4 hours North of Minneapolis, Minnesota.   The Superior Fall Trail Races are very difficult / challenging races and are probably not a good choice for your first trail or ultra race (see Registration Info for qualifying requirements).

100 Mile:
Point to Point 103.3 Miles
Elevation Gain 21,000 FT
Elevation Loss 21,000 FT
NET Elevation Change 42,000 FT
13 Aid Stations
38 hour time limit
Complete 100MI Info HERE

50 Mile:
Point to Point 52.1 Miles
Elevation Gain 12,500 FT
Elevation Loss 12,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 25,000 FT
7 Aid Stations
16.75 hour time limit
Complete 50MI Info HERE

26.2 Mile:
Point to point 26.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 5,500 FT
Elevation Loss 5,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 11,000 FT
3 Aid Stations
14 hour cutoff
Complete 26.2MI Info HERE

More About the Race:
The Superior Trail 100 was founded in 1991 when there was no more than a dozen or so 100 mile trail races in the USA, back then if you wanted to run a 100, you had choices like Western States, Hardrock, Leadville, Wasatch, Cascade Crest, Umstead, Massanutten and Superior . Superior quickly earned it’s reputation of its namesake today – Rugged, Relentless and Remote and is known as one of the tougher 100 mile trail races.  Superior lives on now as one of the “legacy 100 milers” and is considered by many to be one of the most challenging, prestigious and beautiful 100 mile trail races in the country. Shortly after the inception of the 100, the Superior 50 was started and in the early 2000’s the Moose Mountain Marathon was added. None of the history or tradition of this race has been lost and is a great event for those looking for a world-class event with a low-key, old-school 100 miler feel.  The Superior Trail Race is put on by ultrarunners for ultrarunners.

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.