Dear friends, we are requiring that you read the following, in its entirety, before registering for the 2020 Zumbro Endurance Run. It will take you about 7 minutes to read.
The Zumbro Endurance Run in Southern Minnesota’s Driftless Region was founded in 2009 after being held as an informal and unofficial fun-run by a small group of friends for several years prior. The race takes place on Minnesota State Forest land in an area known as the Zumbro Bottoms Management Unit, just outside of Theilman, Minnesota. Minnesota State Forest is much different than a Minnesota State Park – in addition to recreation (horseback riding, running, hiking, snowmobiling, etc.) the land is also used for logging and is open to the public for hunting. The Zumbro Endurance Run has always been held in early to mid-April, always the weekend prior to Minnesota’s Spring Turkey Hunting season which, by state law, starts on the Wednesday nearest the 15th of April. The race was held uninterrupted and unmodified for the first 9 years – 2009 through 2017.
In 2018 an abnormal / early Spring blizzard forced the cancellation of the 17 mile race on Saturday. The 100 and 50 mile races were run, but were severely impacted by the difficulty of the course conditions due to the weather, while being supported by a skeleton crew of volunteers. The majority of the volunteers who were scheduled for Saturday were unable to make it to the race site due to weather and road conditions. Very few of the runners who started, finished the race. If we would have known exactly how this storm would ultimately unfold, we would have cancelled the entire event in advance. You can read more about the 2018 cancellation HERE https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/2018-zumbro-17-mile-race-cancellation/
In 2019 another abnormal / early Spring blizzard forced the cancellation of the entire event. This time, the storm started in advance of the 100 mile race on Friday. You can read more about the 2019 cancellation HERE https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/2019-zumbro-endurance-run-cancellation-followup/
Despite these recent weather challenges, the location, the trails, the time of year, and the people that have coalesced around Zumbro have made it one of the most unique, challenging, mysterious, mythical and amazing events anywhere. Since the cancellation of the 2019 event, we have considered just about every possible option for how to move forward with Zumbro. We’ve asked ourselves… “If one blizzard and cancellation is a fluke, then what is two? What would be the implication of a third in three years, or what if 2020 goes fine and there is another cancellation in 2021? Why is this happening? Is this the new normal? Is this the effect of climate change?” And on an on. We feel badly for those who signed up for 2019 and could not race, especially those 17 milers who had signed up two years in a row but are still yet to race at Zumbro. On a personal level, the amount of stress that accompanied the 2018 cancellation was bad. The stress that came with the 2019 cancellation was nearly debilitating for us. The effects and aftermath of which lasted for months. We have been heartened to see people wearing with pride, the t-shirts we sent out. We have been encouraged by the hundreds of notes of support that we have received. The message… our trail community wants Zumbro to continue, and you have asked us to continue to try.
We petitioned the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. We asked to have the 2020 race permitted a week later in April but our request was denied. Turkey hunting is a longstanding tradition in our state, it drives tourism, generates fees for the state, and is an important activity and tradition for many. My family certainly has no shortage of bird hunters. That said, our on-the-ground observation over the last few years has been that very few people are hunting in the management unit the week after our race and it is our position that our large, active and engaged user group of trail runners would greatly benefit being allowed to host our race the first weekend of Turkey hunting which is generally the third weekend in April. It is only two days and there is a lot of public land for hunting throughout the state. The DNR did offer that we look at dates later in the year and we considered that option, weighing the pros and cons. Moving later into April, May and June the Midwest trail and ultra calendar really takes off, events happening nearly every weekend. It is hard to squeeze a 100 and 50 in there – the 17 mile distance being a little more forgiving to people’s training and racing schedules. The trails at Zumbro open for horseback riding on May 1, and we cannot not ask our equestrian friends to give up any of their initial weekends after a long Winter’s wait. Zumbro is like a mecca for horseback riding and the area is heavily used for this purpose. There is a permitted motorcycle event in the bottoms in mid-May as well and then there is the Memorial Holiday weekend – families have plans and the horse camp is completely filled with equestrians. Get much past early June and the growing season is in full bloom at Zumbro and the trails and soil, which smooths out and compacts during the Spring melt, has now been well churned up by horse hooves. As much as we like a good challenge, running 17, 50 or 100 miles through nearly pure sand and soft soil while getting itch-weed is not going to work – the trails maintained for horses, not as much for people on foot. What about June? Moving the race to June would change the character of Zumbro and take a weekend from our horseback riding friends. Doing so could also double up dates with Chester Woods 50K in nearby Rochester, FANS 12 & 24 Hour in the Twin Cities or Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin. We come from the old school and don’t want to trample on anyone else’s race date or slice and dice the community, put more strain on a smaller volunteer pool on said weekends. As of right now… we just can’t do it. So we are staying away from June and only considering it as an absolute last resort should we face another weather cancellation in the coming years.
To look way ahead, we have requested an expanded conversation and have been granted additional meetings with the DNR to discuss the 2021 event and subsequent years. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is filled with really great and thoughtful individuals. We have deep connections within and long-standing relationships throughout the organization and are grateful for their willingness to work with us in finding a viable long-term solution.
So where does that leave us for 2020? We have spoken, asked, listened and reflected all year. We have met with our runners, our trusted advisors, elder states-people in our community and have discussed our findings with our race committee. After deliberating, here is what we have decided for 2020. We will try again. Same weekend before turkey hunting as always, with the dates being Friday April 10 and Saturday April 11, 2020. We will go in with eyes wide open. We will assume the risk but ask that if we are to do as much, that you do as well. We will let you, the Zumbro faithful, vote with your registrations. Maybe no one will sign up. If so, we will know that it is time to let Zumbro go. Before allowing anyone to register we wanted to be completely upfront and transparent about the circumstances of the last couple of years, the options available to us, and the decision making process that has led us here.
So, all of this said, it is imperative that you know and note the following prior to registering for the 2020 event: Zumbro could be canceled again this year (2020) or any future year due to snowstorms, blizzards, snow that has accumulated to a degree that cars cannot park in the grass field at the start / finish area, flooding, other types of severe weather, natural disaster etc. In the event of a cancellation, race entry fees will not be refunded, and the race will not be rescheduled (if you are wondering why this is, read HERE https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/2019-zumbro-endurance-run-cancellation-followup/#faq ) . We ask that you very carefully consider if this is a risk that you are willing and able to take prior to registering. If you register and the event is canceled, we will mail you your t-shirt and will encourage you to get out and go for an epic run on your own or with your friends from the trail running community near your respective homes. We totally understand if you do not want to take the risk of signing up for Zumbro and are certainly not asking you to – there are a lot of other great events you can sign up for in the Midwest and North later in April and in early May. We highly recommend Chippewa Moraine and The Willow. Check them out. We are totally fine having a smaller event. Whatever you decide is totally, completely, 100% fine with us. We wish you the best of luck with whatever you run this coming Spring. We thank you for your ongoing interest and support.
Finally, for those that already know they are going to sign up and have either run Zumbro previously or have previously educated themselves about the race, you should review in its entirety the information provided on the website prior to registering. We have made some significant changes to the race course, aid station types, frequency and locations along with changes to crew, pacer and spectator access. Below is a list of the major changes being implemented for the 2020 races.
• The race course / loop for all three distances has been revised. We like this course much better and believe that you will too. The distance of each loop will be in the neighborhood of 17 miles (give or take), thus a 50 mile race of approximately 51 miles and a 100 mile race of approximately 102 miles. A revised course map can be found HERE https://www.zumbroendurancerun.com/maps-and-data/ – VERY IMPORTANT: A small portion of the new race course utilizes a section of private property. While we have permission to use this property for the race, you may not enter this private property if you are doing any training at Zumbro outside of race weekend. Please do not ruin this for us and your fellow runners.
• There will no longer be an aid station at the bridge. The first aid station you encounter in the race will be around mile 5(ish), just before you turn onto the “Old Pump Trail”. This will be an unmanned / water-only aid station. Aid Station 2 will be a full service aid station and will be located at what is called Zumbro Bottoms Central Camp around mile 13.5(ish), this is actually the original start / finish location of the Zumbro Races the first couple of years that the race was held and is perfectly suited for an aid station. This will be the new home of the TCRC aid station.
• Crew, pacer and spectator access will only be allowed at the Start / Finish West Assembly Area which will now be considered Aid Station 3. Crew, pacers, or spectators may not drive to any of the other aid stations. We will no longer shuttle crew, pacers or spectators out to the other aid stations. Ambitious crew, pacers and spectators are welcome to walk out to Aid Station 2 but we do not think anyone will take this option as there would not be time to see your runner at Aid Station 2 and then again at Aid Station 3 – the Start / Finish Area as they are approximately 4 miles apart.
• For 2020, we will not hold a Thursday night packet pickup or pre-race picnic. You will get your bib number and race shirt on race morning. We will spend a few extra minutes at the start going over pre-race runner instructions.
• You should note that Zumbro does take place on the Friday and Saturday prior to Easter Sunday in 2020.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this, again, we place a high value on communication, transparency and inclusion. If we see you at Zumbro, great. If not, we hope to catch you somewhere later in the season. Thank you all for your ongoing support.
Zumbro Endurance Run