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St. Louis’ “Must Do” Trail Races

The popularity of trail running has exploded across the country in recent years and St. Louis is no exception. Some of the best trail running in the country can be found in the area’s vast network of parks and trails. With the variety of terrain and race distances found in the area, there is something for everyone. From short, easy races covering a few miles, to a 100-mile ultramarathon, St. Louis has it all.

There are more than twenty trail races held in the St. Louis area annually. It can be tough deciding which ones to run. We’ve tried to narrow down that list to a few races that no runner should miss in creating our “Top 5 Must Do Trail Races.”

The races that made the list distinguished themselves from the others in the area. Factors that made these races stand out included the uniqueness or location of the course, entry fee value and participant extras, or race popularity.

If you haven’t experienced St. Louis trail running yet or want to expand your trail prowess, add these races to your “must-do” list.

#1 Pere Marquette Endurance Trail RunPere-Marquette-1-800
Distance: 7.8 miles
Date: December 14, 2013
Location: Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, IL
Cost: $35

It’s fitting that a group nicknamed “Team Godzilla” created the “toughest and most grueling race in the Midwest.” The Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run truly lives up to that reputation. The course is known for its continuous, steep elevation changes, climbing hill after hill throughout the entire race. The brutal “stone staircase” also helps earn this race its title as the Midwest’s toughest.

Add in the unpredictable cold Midwest winter, where the race has been run in freezing rain, snow and inches of thick mud, and you have the formula for one rugged race.

The Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run is also one of the hardest races to get in to. Runners have been known to schedule their lives around the day registration opens. Many set their alarm clocks to wake up in the middle of the night to register when registration opens at midnight in early September.

If you plan on running this race in 2014, mark your calendars and set your alarm clocks – previous years races have sold in a few hours.

#2 Sand Mine Challenge
Distance: 4 miles (approximate)
Date: February 22, 2014
Location: Crystal City, MO
Cost: $50 through Jan. 1st / $60 after Jan. 1st / $85 Extreme Quad

There are lots of trail races where runners can enjoy the beauty of nature above ground – but very few people get to experience nature’s underground treasures. The Sand Mine Challenge is one of the world’s only trail races that ventures into the depths of the earth.

The race is held in a mine in Crystal City, Missouri. When it was operated in the mid-1800′s to the late 1900′s, the mine supplied sandstone to the area’s glass manufacturing plants, included the largest plate glass plant in the world.

The mining operation left behind a complex network of tunnels, 30-40 feet high in some areas, covering over 200 acres and a unique terrain to run through. Participants in The Sand Mine Challenge run, climb, wade and crawl through a four-mile course of sand, rock and water. The course also includes man-made obstacles where runners must crawl through barrels and under netting; run up and down mounds of sand; jump over hurdles; and climb over walls.

This race is unique and the world has taken notice. The Sand Mine Challenge has been featured in Trail Runner magazine and CNN also named it one of the “10 ultimate U.S. adventures.“

#3 The Skippo
Distance: 10K, 20K, 30K
Date: November 2014 (TBD)
Location: Castlewood State Park, Ballwin, MO
Cost: $35 – 10K / $45 – 20K / $55 – 30K

Where else can you run through river bottoms, climb 200 stairs to the top of a scenic vista, and splash though a refreshing creek all in one race?

The Skippo has it all! Set in one of St. Louis’ most popular parks, the racecourse winds through Castlewood State Park’s spectacular, varied terrain. Runners are treated to scenic views of the Meramec River from the trails that run along its banks as well as views from high above on the bluffs that surround it.

We all love options – The Skippo gives you three. Runners can choose to run the 10K course once, twice or three times.

This race sells out quickly, so don’t delay when registering. The Skippo has become so popular that the 2013 race was split into two days. The 10K was held on a Saturday and the 20K and 30K on Sunday.

It’s your choice – run it once, twice, or three times – just make sure you run The Skippo!

#4 Double Chubb Trail RaceChubb-Trail-800
Distance: 25K/50K
Date: April 19, 2014
Location: Chubb Trail, Eureka, MO
Cost: $80 – 50K / $65 – 25k

Like running the Chubb Trail once isn’t hard enough? This race gives you the chance to do it twice! Starting at West Tyson Park, the racecourse stretches over 7 miles to Lone Elk Park and back for the 25K distance. The first few miles can be brutal, but eventually the course goes through the soft, flat Meramec River bottoms before climbing back out near Lone Elk Park. Looking to get your first trail ultramarathon under your belt? Run the course twice in the 50K race. The course length, difficulty and variety of terrain make the Double Chubb one of St. Louis’ “must do” races.

#5 Wildwood Frozen Feet Trail Half Marathon
Distance: 13.1 Miles
Date: January 25, 2014
Location: LaSalle Springs Middle School
Wildwood, MO
Cost: $35

It’s hard to find any half marathon at this price! What sets this race apart from the others is its value. Now in its fourth year, the Frozen Feet Trail Run is known for its low cost, scenic course, and great swag. The course combines portions of the Hamilton-Carr Greenway, the Al Foster Memorial Trail, and the Rock Hollow Trail. Surfaces vary from smooth paved asphalt, crushed gravel to single track dirt trails.

Runners love extras and this race has it all. The $35 entry fee includes breakfast before the race, lunch afterwards, and previous year’s giveaways included hooded sweatshirts.

And this year’s race is even longer than before! The 2014 edition moves up from the previous year’s 12 miler to the half-marathon distance.

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