Two runners are expected to make a bid for the 100 mile world record this weekend, October 1–2, at the 2nd annual Hennepin Hundred ultra marathon.
In addition to chasing each other from Sterling/Rock Falls to Colona along Illinois’ Hennepin Canal State Trail, Mike Bialick from Minnesota and Oswaldo Lopez from California will both have the 2011 mark of Great Britain’s Ian Sharman in their sights. Sherman set the current standard of 12:44:13 over a similarly “flat & fast” Texas course, averaging 7:38 per mile.
“Mike ran 12:52 to win the Tunnel Hill (Indiana) 100 last year,” says Hennepin Hundred director Michele Hartwig. “And Oswaldo’s been sharing his training data with me. He’s turning in 7:30 minute miles during long runs, which where he lives means up and over mountains.” Oswaldo won the notorious 135-mile Badwater Ultra, which crosses California’s Death Valley, in 2013.
Hartwig says many of the nearly 300 racers who toe up to the starting line at Sterling’s Sinnissippi Park simply hope to finish the 50 mile or 100 mile course before the cutoff times. Fifty miler racers must reach Lock 17 near Wyanet within 15 hours to receive a finisher’s medal, while 100 mile solo runners and relay teams have 30 hours to finish at Timbrook Field in Colona.
While Bialick and Lopez (and possibly a 5-person relay team or two) could finish before 8pm on Saturday, nearly all of the 100-mile racers who finish will run through the night wearing headlamps. “None of us will get much sleep,” laughs Hartwig.
More than 120 volunteers have committed to spend up to 18 hours at aid stations to support the runners, whom themselves rely on an additional 3-4 crew members each to support them over the taxing event.
“With racers, their crew, and our awesome army of volunteers, our little race is a 1000-person event,” Hartwig explains. In 2015, the race drew 200 runners to the Hennepin Canal. “We’re up by almost 100 racers this year,” says Hartwig. The word is getting out about our race, and the amazing hospitality of the Hennepin corridor’s communities.”
Local communities and businesses have noticed the attention the race is bringing to the corridor and are finding ways to support the event. The City of Colona will host the 100 mile finish at Timbrook Field for the second year, and has stepped up their support with cash sponsorship.
Rock Falls Tourism awarded the Hennepin Hundred a $2000 marketing grant in 2016, and Henry County Tourism Bureau, Bureau County Tourism, and Blackhawk Waterways Convention & Visitors Bureau have returned as sponsors of the Field Manual, the event’s coveted race guide. Princeton-based kitchen remodeler Someone’s In the Kitchen is donating use of its delivery truck to keep the course’s aid stations supplied. And new this year, the City of Sterling is allowing racers to camp near the starting area at Sinnissippi Park Friday night.
Regional and national race sponsors include running shoe manufacturer 361 USA, Tailwind Nutrition, BlisterShield manufacturer 2Toms, Clif Bar, Hy-Vee, and Casey’s General Store.
Partnering agencies and communities include the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the communities of Sterling, Rock Falls, and Colona; Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau; Blackhawk Waterways Convention & Visitors Bureau; Henry County Tourism Bureau; and Rock Falls Tourism.
Hartwig and the race’s co-producer, the non-profit Trails for Illinois, hope to use proceeds from the race to improve all visitors’ experience on the Hennepin Canal Trail year-round.
With runners traveling from 34 states and four countries, the Hennepin Hundred has already brought international attention to the Hennepin Canal, says Trails for Illinois’ director, Steve Buchtel. “The money we raise can help Illinois improve the trail and promote trail-oriented tourism along the Hennepin Canal.”