In short, we’re trail runners who wanted to show off our favorite trail to the rest of the world. We think it’s a pretty great piece of ground and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
Located in:Sturgis, SD
Race Distance:100M, 100K, 50M
Terrain: 4 - very hilly; total climb between 150-250 feet per mile (7,500-12,500 feet in 50 miles)
Surface: 3 - trail or dirt road with some rocks, roots and/or ruts
How did your race conception come about?
Ryan Phillips, an NAIA All-American in track at Dakota St. University, runs the Centennial Trail on a regular basis. After he started delving into the world of ultras, he began to realize that the Centennial was the perfect venue for a race. Ryan and another local runner, Chris Stores, met through the local Black Hills Trail Running Series and eventually begin training for the Lean Horse 100 together. Ryan pitched his idea to Chris, who thought it was brilliant. To get things off the ground, they enlisted the help of Jerry Dunn, who is the founder of the Deadwood-Mickelson Trail Marathon, the Lean Horse Ultra and the Run Crazy Horse Marathon. The inaugural event was held in June 2011 and received positive reviews, despite a torrential hail/lightning/rain storm in the middle of the night, a course that proved a bit tougher than many expected and a consequently low (about 35%) finish rate for the 100M. Despite all that (or maybe because of?), registrations for the 2nd annual event are ahead of last year's pace.
What makes runners sign up for your race?
We chose to hold the race the same weekend as Western States knowing full well we would be going up against the granddaddy of ultras. But our intent was never really to go head to head with Western States. Rather, we realized that there are far more people who apply to the Western States lottery than there are slots in the race. We also realized that those people who don't get into Western States might be looking for another race that offers a similar challenge at that same time of year.
We advertised the inaugural event as "tougher than you expect" and "Lean Horse's evil stepsister" but we think that many people didn't really believe us. After the inaugural event was complete, word started to get out that the Black Hills are tougher than they appear at first glance. With only two sub-24 finishers in 2011 and a finish rate of around 35% for the 100M, the course proved that it can't be taken for granted. That kind of challenge has a certain draw to a particular segment of the ultra community. This year, we're starting to see some more registrations from runners with impressive 100M credentials.
Above all, we wanted to make this a race for runners by runners. We're basically just two guys who love to run trails and love the Black Hills and want to show the Centennial off to anyone in the ultra community who is willing to look. We know what we like and what we don't like when we race at other ultras and we try to channel that into making Black Hills a quality event.
What's unique about your race that sets you apart?
Three things: the challenge, the beauty, and the volunteers. The rolling nature of the Black Hills means that the course doesn't have any huge, high altitude climbs like some other western ultras, but the course is relentless with its almost constantly rolling nature. It was described by the 2nd place 100M finisher last year as "Zane Grey without the rocks".
The trail traverses a wide array of spectacular terrain. From the start in Sturgis, on the edge of the open prairie and Black Hills, the course takes you up through dense pine forests and down into lush creek bottoms, up through open meadows, and then down to mountain lakes.
Most of our aid station captains are experienced trail and/or ultra runners themselves, so they know what runners need/want and what they are going through at various stages of the race. New this year, we have challenged our aid station captains to come up with a theme for their aid station; something wild that will make runners remember that aid station for years to come.
What does your schwag bag and finisher awards look like?
Our schwag bag is the standard drawstring bag with our logo printed on it and is stuffed with a high quality technical tee and various sponsor goodies.
We have what are probably some of the most unique overall awards in the world of ultras. Last year, we awarded a hand painted, genuine buffalo skull to the top male and female in the 100M event. This year, we are expanding that to the top 3 males and females in the 100M event.
All 100M finishers (sub-32) receive a buckle with a silver buffalo skull on it. All sub-24 finishers receive a buckle with a gold buffalo skull.
All 100K and 50M finishers receive a medal designed to resemble the Centennial Trail #89 markers found along the course.
Do you host other races?
Lean Horse Ultra (100M, 50M, 50K) - Hot Springs, SD - August 25, 2012 (founded by Jerry Dunn, who will be retiring in the next few years and transitioning RD duties to Ryan Phillips and Chris Stores)
Crow Peak Ascent (6.4 miles) - Spearfish, SD - July 28, 2012 - Part of Black Hills Trail Running Series
Although we aren't involved with directing any of the other trail series races, the series itself deserves a plug. Total of 10 trail races at various locations in the northern Black Hills. Runs from May through November. Races range from a few miles to a half marathon. Points awarded based on finish at each race; at the end of the year, overall awards are presented to the top point earners (like NASCAR, but not as many wrecks). Website is http://www.bhrctrails.com
You Can Find Black Hills 100 Online @:
For more information on the event, feel free to contact us at one of the following:
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