Since its inception in 2008, the Fools Trail Run has quickly become one of the must-run endurance events in Northeast Ohio known for being a fairly fast track where new course records, and personal bests are often established…just not in 2014! The Saturday night before this year’s race, an unexpected spring snow storm blanketed Northeast Ohio with 4 inches of fresh snow and slush turning an already saturated course into a bog. With a sold-out field of over 350 combined 50k and 25k runners sharing the double loop course, conditions went from bad to worse as temperatures climbed into the upper 40’s by the afternoon creating uneven footing, standing water, shoe-sucking mud, and intense wipe-outs. It was, in all regards, a PERFECT day for a trail race!
Start of Fool’s 50k, Pine Hollow. Photo by Joey Da Jogger.
The Fools course has become legendary over the past few years as it is uses 6 individual trail sections of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park cleverly connected in a way that does not feel like you are repeating any sections. The 9:00am start for the 25k race, combined with the 8:00am start for the 50k creates a unique situation where runners of both races are seeing each other in cross traffic throughout the day offering words of encouragement and company to their fellow runners. At the 12 mile mark, participants crest “Fools Hill”, where the race can be viewed from the starting line, before disappearing into Salt Run Trail where the bulk of the race’s elevation is located. For many runners who have not budgeted their energy properly, the hills of Salt Run can become a grinder, but if you have planned accordingly, this 3.5 mile stretch can offer a last chance to move up in the rankings. Spectators can view the race at 7 locations on each loop with very little walking or driving which makes it a great event to bring a crew along to.
With aid stations placed every 3 miles along the course and staffed with some of Northeast Ohio’s best volunteers, the Fools Trail Run is the perfect race for trail newbies or first time 50k runners to whet their appetites. This year was no different as many first time 50 and 25k runners toed the line. With 93 finishers in the 50k and 184 finishers in the 25k, despite very challenging trail conditions, it was yet another testament to the toughness and camaraderie of the Northeast Ohio trail running community. Post-race food, custom medals, chip timing, and Mountain Hardwear race swag and prizes were among the amenities that will have runners signing up again next year!
The two most contested events of the day were the Women’s 50k where Lauren Pearch erased a 9 minute deficit at the halfway point to narrowly edge out LeeAnn Werner by just over 3 minutes, and the Men’s 25k where Scott Hinkle caught the leaders just before “Fools Hill” and held off the field by only 2 minutes by working efficiently through Salt Run Trail to the finish. Really, anyone in the 50k who was mentally tough enough to run past their car and head out on loop 2 knowing what awaited them deserves special mention!
Congratulations to the winners in each division and special congrats to those of you who made the 2014 Fools Trail Run your first trail race or ultramarathon! Yes, they are all this fun and yes, that mud on your shoes is yours to keep!
Finisher Jeff Ginsburg of Millersburg, OH completes his first Fools Trail Run wearing his winter running gear and a Smile! Photo by Heidi Finniff