Notes on the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon

 – By

Posted on 10. Aug, 2002

After our April 6, 2002, YAKIMA RIVER CANYON MARATHON (YRCM) runner Alice Kennedy, 42, of Missoula, Montana, sent us an e-mail in which she mentioned that she would be running the inaugural Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon on Sunday, June 9, 2002. That sounded good to us. We signed on and subsequently flew to Rapid City, South Dakota, rented a car and drove 43 miles to Deadwood, SD, for a four day mini-vacation centered around the marathon.

In support of this new marathon there were many 100 Marathon Club North America members and 50 Staters on hand for Jerry Dunn, race director and fellow 50 Stater. Many of us were also adding “South Dakota” to our personal state lists. Lenore and I had many opportunities to renew acquaintances and make new ones at this gathering.

At packet pickup at the historic Franklin Hotel in downtown Deadwood, we enjoyed talking with Don Lang, 67, of Glendale California. We had met him when he ran our inaugural YRCM in 2001. Don has a phenomenal mega-marathoning record. The Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon was his 17th of the year and the 307th of his career. When he reaches his 10 year marathoning anniversary later in the year, he hopes to have completed 317 marathons!

At the pre-race dinner, it was nice to visit with Al Becken, 73, of San Antonio, Texas. He had finished our inaugural YRCM ahead of me, and he had no difficulty doing the same thing at Deadwood as he finished in 4:31:45. He took an early start so he could get back home to be with his ailing wife.

We also visited with Mike Smith, 44, of Fishers, Indiana (near Indianapolis). We had seen him at Yakima, Coeur d’ Alene (Idaho), and Park City (Utah) at marathons last year. Now that he is a 50 States and DC finisher, he and his friend Bob Wehr of Florida are concentrating on running the continents. Bob was at our inaugural YRCM, so it was nice to see him again, too. Mike is in training for a summer marathon in Death Valley, California, and for one in Antarctica.

Chris Ralph, 50, of Kirkland, WA, was there. I have known her for about 15 years, and we have run many of the same marathons and ultras in the Pacific Northwest. On the bus ride to the race start, 26 miles south of Deadwood, Chris told me of some of her running adventures in past winters on 100 mile stretches of the Iditarod Trail in Alaska. She and her running partner, Tom Ripley, run as a team pulling sleds that carry their provisions and clothing over the frozen polar expanses. One year she was the women’s winner. Chris is a long time member of the Marathon Achievers, a support group, and she certainly lives up to the name. She ran a 4:07:49 at the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon… a very good time!

The first 25 miles of this point-to-point marathon are run on the George S. Mickelson Trail. It was named for the Governor of South Dakota who was instrumental in the establishment of a 114 mile rails-to-trail route through the heart of the Black Hills that terminates at Deadwood. This Burlington Northern Railroad line was abandoned in 1989 and eventually was replaced by the multipurpose graveled trail that was dedicated in 1998.

The marathon is in the Black Hills which gets its name from the dark color of the Ponderosa Pine forest that covers the many hills. Starting at Rochford, a historic village and trailhead, we ran north beside a creek that meandered in a narrow valley of grassland that was bounded by wooded hills. Wild flowers and new leafing of cottonwoods and aspens that we passed were constant reminders that spring had come to the Black Hills. Many of the flowers that I admired were blue… iris, larkspur, flax, bluebells, and violets.

The race started at a mile high altitude (5,280 feet) with a gradual climb that peaked one thousand feet higher at 12 miles into the race. In the latter half of the marathon there was a gradual and welcome descent with only one uphill through forests to Deadwood at 4,600 feet. In the first hour the temperature was in the 60’s with a lot of shade. With clear skies, light winds and air temperatures that rose to 75 degrees, there was a definite temperature effect on running performances as the race progressed. It is a nice, scenic trail run but not a fast course. After reaching Deadwood, we ran on Main Street passing the historic buildings to reach the finish area by a rodeo arena.

The winner of the race was Dave Braley, 44, of Sioux Falls, SD, who won with a 3:11:45. In second was Ron Larson, 38, of Armour, SD, in 3:12:30. He was penalized five minutes for running with the early starters (mostly slow runners and walkers). Obviously, by starting at 6:35 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m., he ran in cooler conditions, and Dave was not aware of his position or pace. Essentially, he was in a different race with more favorable conditions. Karen Glazier, 34 was third overall and the women’s winner with a 3:31:14.

My race went fairly well considering the surface, elevation, hills, and heat. I finished with a 5:09:19, 49th of 77 finishers, and second 70+ Male. I had a negative split of a minute which was related to the elevation drop overall.

Liquid refreshments were served at Saloon No. 10 at the awards ceremony. This is the saloon where Wild Bill Hickock was killed in 1876 while playing poker. (His assassin was hanged.) Perhaps this contributed to the award design being a tombstone replica with Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane running on the trail.

At dinner with Andy Kotulski, 62, of Montclair, New Jersey, we learned that he has run over 500 marathons. Last year he had a close call following a marathon that he ran in Russia. He developed a viral infection that was almost fatal. Only after the Russians sent him back to the United States did he get effective medical care. Even now, there are lingering health effects.

Henry Rueden, 52, of De Pere, Wisconsin, is a mega-marathoner who ran back-to-back marathons. The day before the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon he ran the Park City Marathon in Utah… both at high elevations!

Thanks go to Tom Detore, 54, of Umadilla, Nebraska, for circulating a get-well card for 50 Staters to sign. The card will be sent to Jose Nebrida of Chicago, Illinois, who is recovering from triple bypass heart surgery. Jose still intends to carry the American flag in a marathon in all 50 states and DC to honor the September 11, 2001, casualties. This was his mission before this unexpected heart attack and surgery interfered with his quest.

While on our way to the Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore Memorials the day after the marathon, we visited Buffalo Bob’s Gift Shop in Hill City. Bob Pfeiffer, the owner, had run the marathon and finished first in the 60-64M division. His wife Kathy had been a finish line volunteer with Lenore.

Race director Jerry Dunn was assisted by his wife Elaine Doll-Dunn who is an accomplished marathoner herself. In the year 2000 as “Mrs. South Dakota,” she ran 26.2 marathons and wrote an inspiring book about these events. It’s a book called “Gotta Run…” and Lenore (a non-runner) said it ended too soon!!

The Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon was a well-organized race that I would like to run again. I think that I can break five hours the next time with the earlier, official start for all participants.

Thanks, Alice Kennedy. We’re glad you drove there from Missoula, and we’re glad you told us about this great new marathon.

Written by Bob Dolphin

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