2010 North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon Recap

Only four weeks after running Boston in 2010, one of my friends sent me an email about an upcoming event just two weeks away, The North Face Endurance Challenge.  The two-day event included 50-Miler, 50-K, marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 10K, and 5K races. I immediately decided to enter the marathon despite telling the Cruisers that Boston might well have been my farewell marathon. The location for the Endurance Challenge was in near-by Algonkian Regional Park and I took the closeness of the location as an omen that I was meant to run it.

Race morning I woke up bright-and-early for Bill to drive me to the race start. We easily made it into the park with no traffic problems. I picked up my race packet in about two minutes and suddenly realized that I had an hour and a half to kill until race time, so I started out by wondering around the athletes’ village taking pictures.

The 9 AM start-time annoyed me because it meant the race would be really hot. I decided that I needed to get out of the sun and found a covered picnic area near the Potomac River to wait it out. I made friends with my fellow shelter-dwellers and we started talking about our race histories, the course, where we were from, etc. I quickly realized that a lot of the runners were running their first marathon, and I was surprised that they would pick this difficult course as their first.

The older gentleman in the photo below had just run Boston as well (his 12th Boston), one of the guys was running his first marathon and the other was running his second. The newbie marathoner had run the half-marathon course last year and we all listened intently to him as he described the course.

As we waited, we noted that there was never a line at the porta-potties.  North Face did a great job of having plenty of porta potties, but this was a two day event and I’m sure there would be a lot more runners hanging around on day two during the half marathon, 10K, and 5K.

We also noted how relaxed and laid back everyone seemed. As race time approached we walked up to the starting line and self-seeded ourselves. The field of runners was very small, maybe 200 people in all.

After a few announcements and a little pep-talk by Dean Karnazes, we were off!

We ran on grass for about a mile and I was passed by person-after-person and starting to get a complex. We had our first tiny little stream crossing and then we went into a single dirt lane lined on both sides with grass and stinging nettle that was often taller than me.

I quickly realized that this wasn’t an ordinary race. We had color-coordinated ribbons to follow to stay on our (marathoners followed pink). Early on, another runner and I made a wrong turn and the other runners called us back (I went off course at least two other times).

The course was beautiful and interesting as we ran through muddy lanes, jumped across creeks, scurried across fallen trees, climbed up incredibly steep hills, and ran back down switch-backs.  Much of the time we had the beautiful Potomac River within our sight.

Around mile 8, my Cruiser friend Chuck surprised me by being along the trail waiting to run with me. Chuck mentioned that he hadn’t seen any female runners that looked my age or older in front of me and that I might be in a position to win or place in my age group. That really went a long way in encouraging me to stay strong. Chuck ran with me for about 8-10 miles and then stopped when he got back to his car. He said he’d be at the finish line when I got there. I turned my iPod back on and continued my journey, picking off runners one at a time and feeling quite strong.



Halfway point!

With what I thought was two miles to go, I was pleasantly surprised to see Bill and Chuck at the fourth and final aide station.  And Chuck wasn’t just there to cheer me on; he was there to run me in!


Photo courtesy of Bill

Unfortunately, I’d been given wrong information at the previous aide station and I still had four miles to go, not two. Chuck talked and kept me entertained as we made it toward the finish line, picking off a few more runners as we trudged along.


Photo courtesy of Bill

I was able to finish strong with a time of 5:32:38 (12:41 pace)and with my arms in the air shouting, “I loved this course! It rocked!”


Photo courtesy of Bill

We were able to meet Dean Karnazes right after the race. He signed our copy of his book Ultra Marathon Man and chatted with us for a while. He said that he had gone out earlier in the morning for a short run (probably 30 miles).


Photo courtesy of Bill


Photo courtesy of Bill

While I was munching on my post-race burrito, we saw Dean and a group of kids run by doing their fun run. It was amazing to see his muscles ripple as he ran by so easily.


As we were leaving, we checked the board to see if I’d placed. At that point, I was the only person in my age group that had finished, so I was excited to see that I’d finished first. Luckily, I was able to pick up my award (North Face hat and water bottle) before we left, because we were so tired we didn’t want to drive back two hours later for the awards ceremony. In hindsight, I wish I had attended the award ceremony because it would have been so cool to go up on stage and receive my award from Dean Karnazes.



I was the 12th female to finish and finished 33rd overall.  I was also the oldest female to finish, and the only one in my age group. It’s not hard to win your age group when you’re the only one in it!

Race shirts and socks weren’t given out until after the race was finished which proved to be a problem for me.  I was so sweaty and gross that I didn’t try on my shirt even though they said I could.  I didn’t realize it was a compression shirt until I got home and it was way too small for me.  Oh and the socks… they were way too big for me!  At least the bag fit.  Ha!

The finishers medal was pretty basic with a different colored ribbon for each of the different race distances.

I had no idea when Bill suggested I go stand in front of the Potomac River so he could take a picture of me that it would become one of my favorite photos, and one that I would use on Deb Runs, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I’m still holding out on my Facebook page and using a picture Bill took of me at the beach at sunrise…


Photo courtesy of Bill

If you’re looking for a well organized trail race, I highly recommend The North Face Endurance Challenge!  There’s a distance for everyone, and the atmosphere is really great.  I can’t speak for the other locations, but the DC course is beautiful, challenging, fun, and it rocks!

  • Questions:
  • What’s your all-time favorite race?
  • Have you ever run a North Face race?
  • Which running celebrities have you met? ~ Jeff Galloway, Bart Yasso, Katherine Switzer and Dean Karnazes for me.
Happy Running! ~ Deb


  1. Kim Kim
    June 10, 2014    

    Oh – I love this look back!!
    Those pictures along the trail and your descriptions sound a lot like the half marathon that my son and I just did this past weekend. I had never done a trail race and had no idea what I was getting myself into – it was a lot of fun though!!! Maybe next year I will do the full!!
    Kim recently posted…Hunter’s first Half Marathon and Our First Trail RaceMy Profile

    • June 10, 2014    

      Ha! Kim, I was thinking of your & Hunter’s trail half the whole time I read this! 🙂
      Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…Scenes from a vacation – Vermont and FloridaMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 10, 2014    

      I love trail races. My first trail experience was the first 17 miles of the JFK 50-Miler on the Appalachian Trail, and that was really cool. I didn’t run a true trail race again until this one. I ran lots of marathons on old railroad beds, and I think a lot of people think of those as trail races, but they’re not really. I’ve learned to love running through the streams and mud, and even bought trail shoes!

      Loved your recap of your half. It sounded like a challenging course, and I’m sure the overnight rain didn’t help!

  2. June 10, 2014    

    1. It was cool to see the veteran runner and the rookie in one picture.

    2. I can’t imagine running a cool course like this. I’ve run exactly two 5Ks (to be three by the end of 2014, maybe four), and each was on the street. I’d love to run a course like this (5K of course).

    3. That photo is what many of us associate with you. It says accomplishment and bliss, with a little side of ‘tude.
    Eli@coachdaddy recently posted…A Letter From a Dad to Some GradsMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 10, 2014    

      The North Face series has a 5K. Come up next year to run it and I’ll be your buddy runner!

      I like that I show a side of ‘tude!

  3. June 10, 2014    

    Awesome! My husband and I would love to run a NFE challenge! And you met Dean. So cool! I jjust blogged about one of my all time favorite races. A 12-hour relay I run as a 2-person team with my husband.
    jill conyers recently posted…#FuelYourBetter 12- Hour RelayMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 11, 2014    

      Meeting Dean was very cool. Hope you and your hubby get to run a NFEC one of these days!

      Good luck on your 12-hour relay this weekend!

  4. June 10, 2014    

    Congrats on the race! Looks like you had lots of fun. I had some friends do the next day and really didn’t have the best experience. Apparently no porta potties on course and no food left at the finish. Glad you had a good experience. Trail races seem very different.

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 11, 2014    

      Trail races are quite different than road races and incredibly fun! I’m sorry your friends didn’t have a good experience.

  5. June 10, 2014    

    What an awesome race! I love that it’s the source of the photo of you I see all over social media! 🙂 And SO cool that you got to meet Dean Karnazes. I’ve never actually met any running celebrities in the flesh, but I’ve been at races and seen Grete Waitz, Kara Goucher and Deena Kastor.
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…Scenes from a vacation – Vermont and FloridaMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 11, 2014    

      It was so fun! My hubby didn’t think I would like it because of having to run through so much mud, but I surprised both of us!

  6. June 10, 2014    

    You ran a great race, especially considering it was only four weeks after Boston! You look incredibly strong in the photos, too!I love that you were the oldest female to finish!
    The coolest running (well, triathlon) celebrity I met was Chrissie Wellington! She will always be one of my idols!
    Abby recently posted…So you wanna do a triathlon? Choosing your first raceMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 11, 2014    

      Thanks! I think I might run the half next year because I really liked this course.

  7. June 11, 2014    

    Congrats on 1st place in your age group and on such an awesome finishing time! That course looks beautiful!

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 11, 2014    

      Thanks, Kristen! The course is beautiful and I recently met a blogging friend for the first time on a training run there. I really should run there more often!

  8. June 11, 2014    

    Great race recap. Looked like a tough course and you totally killed it. Only runner in your age group or not, you still finished first lol. Never participated in a NF event but everything I read about says they throw great races. Would love to run one some day. Only been running for about 9 months now so don’t really have a favorite race. Time will tell.
    The running schlub recently posted…Seriously Reconsidering My Fitness LevelMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 11, 2014    

      Thanks! Hope it works out that you can run a NFEC someday or any equally fun and beautiful trail race. I think you’ll love it!

  9. June 11, 2014    

    I just read Kim’s post about a trail race – they look like fun. I’ve never met a running celebrity, but I consider you one!
    Dana recently posted…What goes on at a blogging conference?My Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 12, 2014    

      You are now officially my best blogging friend! 🙂

  10. June 18, 2014    

    Ah ha, now I know where “The Photo” comes from! So did this end up being your farewell marathon? Bill got some great race photos of you that day! I love the one of you running down the gravel path and the one of you crossing the finish line.

    It would be awesome to meet Dean! I bet his “short” run that morning was 30 miles or something, haha. I’ve met Bart Yasso, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Katherine Switzer. It’s so cool meeting running legends!
    Meagan recently posted…Varmint 1/2 Marathon – Race ReportMy Profile

    • Deb Runs Deb Runs
      June 18, 2014    

      Yes, now my readers know where “the photo” came from! Bill and I ended up running Richmond that fall, and it was my farewell marathon.

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Race PR’s (Personal Records)

5K - 22:57 (7:23 pace)
8K - 39:25 (7:55 pace)
10K - 47:05 (7:40 pace)
Ten Mile - 1:16:22 (7:38 pace)
20K - 1:45:30 (8:30 pace)
Half Marathon - 1:54:34 (8:45 pace)
Twenty Mile - 2:46:14 (8:18 pace)
Marathon - 3:29:04 (7:59 pace)
Ultramarathon - 10:50:30 (13:00 pace)

2016 Race Schedule

February 14 - Run Your Heart Out 5K
April 17 - Loudoun 8K or Half Marathon
April 29 & 30 - Ragnar Trail Richmond Ultra
May 22 - Chicago Spring Half Marathon
July 4 - Firecracker 5K
August 21 - Leesburg 20K
September 16 & 17 - Ragnar DC
November 24 - Thanksgiving Day 5K
December 11 - Frosty 5K

Favorite Races

1997 Marine Corps Marathon (3:44:56) - first marathon and first Boston qualifier

1997 JFK 50-Miler (10:50:30) - first and only ultra

1998 Boston Marathon (3:39:57) - first Boston

1999 Steamtown Marathon (3:29:04) - PR marathon

2010 North Face Endurance Challenge Marathon (5:32:38) - favorite trail marathon


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