History

Written by Andy Raether-Prevost. You can contact Andy at andy@northlandrunner.com.

Inspired and zany are words that come to mind to describe the creators of the Northern Minnesota Track Club (NMTC). A grass roots running club, the NMTC was born July 3rd, 1981, 8:00pm, at the Pizza Hut on London Road in Duluth, Minnesota. Already formed in Duluth at the time was the North Shore Striders running club, the creators of Grandma's Marathon. There was, however, a desire by several "die-hard" runners to form a club based on camaraderie and to promote running. They also had a huge desire to train and compete as a team. Not only did these folks want to compete on the roads, they wanted to create new races, some on TRAILS!

So, who were these crazy runners that wanted to give breath to this new club? Well, if you have been in Duluth long, you will probably recognize the name Jarrow Wahman. He was one of the forefathers as well as his partner at Austin-Jarrow Sports, Bill Austin. Sten Rudstrom's name dots the pages of early newsletters, and the president of the club at the time of birth was Mark Sutton.

Left: Bill Austin
Right: Jarrow Wahman
Bottom: Steve Senich
 
The first race put on by the NMTC was the now defunct Skyline 25k from Magney Park, near Spirit Mountain, to Chester Bowl along Skyline Parkway in 1981, but it didn't take long for the club to settle into it's bread and butter that has held up for the past twenty-seven years, TRAILS! Rudstrom worked up in his secret laboratory the plans for the first NMTC trail race, the Hartley Trail Run. In Volume 1, Issue 2, of the NMTC newsletter, the writer says of the Hartley brainchild, "It will be ten kilometers of pure hell."

The group of eager runners did not stop there. The next year in 1982, the club founded two events that have stayed strong through the years and have continued to grow, the fall cross country series and the Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultra (MVTR or Voyageur). The fall series at the time included both regular trail races and four-person team relays. Many locations are the same today as in 1982 with the exception of a few. The Voyageur was also a bit different as it was only 48 miles at the time (now the race is 50 miles) and it started in Duluth at the Spirit Mountain Campground instead of Carlton.

Not all of the traditions of the NMTC have stayed as true as the fall series and the MVTR. Few souls in the running world can say that they have entered or completed the Tischer Creak River Run (TCRR). This WAS a spring event during the 80's that was run during finals week at University of Minnesota-Duluth from the Woodland neighborhood of Duluth. The run wandered down to Lake Superior where the brave souls began their pilgrimage up the creek with their sights set on the dam at Hartley Field. This was not a run that was to be won but rather survived as the body went up against Mother Nature and whatever may have collected in the creek over the years. All bets were off in the TCRR as the runners neared the finish. While the run itself took over three hours, the real pleasure came as the runners had to scale the sixteen foot tall dam at Hartley Field. The trick is that the runners could only use what they had picked up along the way to get over the dam wall. In 1986 Gunnar Nelson made it to the dam alone, after his three fellow competitors dropped out. He did not make it over the dam!

Judging from the TCRR, you can tell that the founders of the NMTC simply loved running. Not only did this club put on races, they produced a newsletter, elected officers and a board of directors, raised money through club dues, raffles, and pin sales, took trips to races like the Boone-to-Ogden Gonzo 8-mile in Iowa, and they helped others put on races as well. The NMTC running team had full racing gear for their members to wear at races, and they competed strongly in races across Northern Minnesota.

At some point in the late 80's or early 90's, the NMTC stopped competing as a running team (if anyone knows the year, let us know at Northland Runner). But just like today, it was the members' passion for running that kept the club alive. In 1987, Dan Proctor's love for trails gave birth to the spring cross country series that we know today. You can say "thank you" to Dan in the spring and fall at the Chester Bowl series races where he brings a supply of Third Street Bakery cookies, thus the name "cookie" race for these two events.

In 1989, another NMTC race was born as the Race-To-The-Turnaround was run, or half of the Voyageur. After a three year hiatus, the shorter Voyageur was tried again in 1992 under the direction of Gene Curnow, this time as the current Half-Voyageur. The purpose of the race was and still is to raise money and volunteers for the full Voyageur because volunteers for the full get a reduced entry fee of only ten dollars for the half.

If it weren't for the Curnows, Gene and Barb, and the folks mentioned above, one can only wonder if the NMTC would be alive as it is today. Barb Curnow took over the directorship of the Voyageur from Mark DeLorme and Lisa Wood in 1991, and she continued on the job until 2006, sixteen years. Around the same time that Barb took over the Voyageur, she and Gene started to take the controls of the fall and spring series as well. Recently in 2007, Rolle Everson took over the management of the Voyageur race, but Gene has remained as the director of the Half-Voyageur. Recently, two local running shops, Austin-Jarrow (Fall) and the Duluth Running Company (Spring) have begun sponsoring the series races even though they are still under control of the NMTC.

In a recent conversation with Gene Curnow, he summed up the whole philosophy of the NMTC, saying that if you show up to a race, you are a member. And Barb recently added that, "I used to like to say when people would ask if the runs (series races) were still $1, 'It's the only thing that hasn't gone up in price in over 20 years.'"

The NMTC relies on the attendance of runners AND WALKERS at the spring and fall series and at the Voyageur races to stay strong as a club, both financially and in spirit. Yes, each race at the fall and spring series is only ONE DOLLAR! The races are at a different location each Wednesday at 6pm, with the exception of later season fall races which are on Sundays at 2pm due to lack of sunlight. The spring series starts in late April and runs through early June, while the fall series begins in late August and goes until early November. All ABILITIES ARE WELCOME! Points are awarded based on place. At the last race of the series, there is a potluck where the final point standings are announced and prizes are given out very deep into the standings.

Even if you don't run or walk, the NMTC is always looking for volunteers to help out in support of its races (volunteers get points too). If you come to watch, don't be surprised if there is a job for you, but only if you want it, of course. Without volunteers, the NMTC would not have survived the last 27 years. We look forward to seeing you at the next NMTC race!