Wednesday, January 1, 2020

There is nothing like the Siberian Express

There is nothing like it.

That's how Deb Studniarz describes the annual Siberian Express Trail Run held at Kickapoo State Park for almost four decades. The 7.45 mile trail race, the first on this side of Illinois every calendar year, will run this Saturday at its usual location.

The 36th installment is scheduled to start at 11 am.

Last year, just over 300 runners turned out to race thanks unseasonably warm weather.

"You never know what Illinois weather will be like," said Studniarz, who is also this year's race director. "Last year we had record turnout because the weather was exceptional. The year before was record cold."

Corey Plotner, who finished 19th at last year's race, has run the Siberian Express in nearly every form of manic January weather that Mother Nature has offered.

"The challenging part is the weather. I have run it in shorts, and I have run it in 6 plus inches of snow," Plotner said. "You never know what you are going to get until you get out on the course."

Plotner, one of 11 Sentinel area runners, clocked in last January at 55:07.5.

"It’s a challenge to run trail and a greater challenge in the winter," Studniarz said referencing the years the race was ran despite knee high snow or sub-zero temperatures. "You never know what Illinois weather will be like."

Since 2012 Plotner has only missed running the annual race twice. In his opinion, having a solid game plan is key to running a good race.

"The real fun is when the course is sloppy though. It really makes for some interesting turns and strategy really comes into play then," he said. "This makes the experience so much fun because you go and run the course in the chilly temps and snow and slush, then you get to go back in the fall and run it faster on the dry course.

Another area resident and veteran runner, Mike Tankersley is intimately familiar with both the demands of the course and unpredictable race-day weather.

This course is tough when it is warm and dry," he said. Last year, the St. Joseph resident finished 29th overall with a time of 57:21.4 seconds. "When it is cold and snowing it is very challenging But, a huge accomplishment just to finish!"

Tankersley's fondest Siberian Express memory is finishing the race two years ago in 1 degree temperatures without any signs of frostbite.

Other area runners competing in last year's race included three women; Kati Seeley, Melissa Swanson and Johanna Mayer. Seeley finished the course in one hour, eight minutes and 27 seconds for 13th place in her division and 94th overall. Swanson clocked in 183th and Mayer persevered to cross the finish line after 2:03:17.4 elapsed from the time she started.

Plotner and Tankersley were not the only men from St. Joseph who competed in 2019. Cory Swanson, Bryan Johnson, John North, Scott Hendren, Levi Marriott and Jonathan Mayer all finished the 2019 running of the Siberian Express.

Haven't signed up for this year's race yet?

Race day registration opens at 9:30am. Runners signing up at the last minute should head to the Kickapoo Park Maintenance Garage.

The top 175 finishers will receive what the official race website calls a "Super Cool" medal. Participation awards will be distributed to runners finishing under the two hour mark.

For what it is worth, Saturday's forecast calls for cloudy conditions and the high hovering around 32ยบ.



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