Countdown to The North Face Championship
A stacked field of women and men are readying themselves for a soggy, competitive contest
Runners in last year's TNF 50
Photo Courtesy of The North Face
The annual North Face 50-Mile Endurance Challenge (TNF 50) will be run on December 2, 2012, just north of San Francisco in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The final races in The North Face series, the event will host the GORE-TEX 50-miler, a 50K, a marathon, a marathon relay and a 5K. The hyper-competitive 50-miler is notorious for its challenging elevation changes (a total gain of 12,480 feet) and big-money purse. The race boasts the largest prize purse in the ultramarathon trail racing. Cash prizes are awarded to the top three male and female 50-milers—$10,000 for first, $4000 for second and $1000 for third.
The race begins with a few miles on roads and fire roads, quickly becoming singletrack that winds along the coast with cliff-top views of the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Runners continue to twist and turn, climbing beside the Muir Woods toward Stinson Beach. The course then follows the classic Dipsea Trail through the moors. The second half of the race moves through a series of interconnected trails, an occasional fire road and finishes at Fort Barry.
Over the past week, storms have slammed the San Francisco area, and racers are bracing themselves for a muddy fight. “The rainfall will be most intense in the North Bay, where two to three inches of rain is expected in lowlands and as many as eight inches in the hills,” says Bay Area forecaster Steve Anderson in a CBS interview discussing the upcoming weather.
Says TNF 50 contender Megan Kimmel, 32, of Silverton Colorado, “[These are runners who] live for the experience of going past a point of familiarity, not only in the a wilderness setting but also in the mind. For me, ultrarunning is about going farther mentally.”
The women’s field is overflowing with the sport’s veterans as well as noteworthy new talent. Kimmel, who was recently named 2012 USATF Trail Runner of the Year, as well as the female USATF Trail Series Champion, says she is excited to go up against the “amazing lineup of women,” including her long-time friend and a fellow U.S. Mountain Running Team member Brandy Erholtz, 34, who will be racing her debut ultra.
Asked why she was racing TNF 50 as her first ultra, Erholtz noted her comfort with hilly terrain (she lives and trains in the mountains around Evergreen, Colorado) and said simply but confidently, “Go big or go home, right?” She plans to think of the race “as a long run amongst friends,” then adding, “I have nothing to lose.”