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Obliterating Your Fitbit Floor Records with the Willow River Trail Challenge

So, you're going to a wedding in the afternoon and have the morning free. What do you do? Run a half marathon three hours away, obviously! Oh, you mean, that's just me? Oh well. At least I burn all the calories and get to be hangry until the reception!

I attended a wedding in Athens, Wisconsin in October and decided to do the Willow River Trail Challenge half marathon in Hudson the same day. Whatever, I only had to drive 90 minutes to get there, drive 90 minutes back to my hotel, and then drive 90 minutes to the wedding venue. Piece of cake, which, by the way, I could have used during all the commutes. Alas, I did not eat because I drive responsibly. Ew. I'm just waiting for the self-driving car that also self-bakes treats for the driver.

Anyway, the race is held at Willow River State Park in Hudson, Wisconsin, and gains enough elevation to make you feel like you need a rappel rope. My Fitbit said I gained 1100 feet throughout the race, but it could have just been delirious from altitude sickness. The extra effort will probably cause you to go a little slower than your average pace. It took me about ten minutes longer than my general half marathon time. According to the results page, the average finisher had a time of 2:15:32. I was more than 2:30 faster, so I'm obviously a step away from the Olympics.

Here's me at the finish line, taken from a camera phone manufactured in 1987.

Throughout the course, you take on the Six Sisters, which include the 152-foot "Everest" and the 61-foot "K2." The other hills are a bit shorter. The course takes you through some gorgeous fall foliage, near Willow River, and past Willow Falls. If I hadn't been running, I would have stopped and taken so many identical touristy pictures. It was absolutely gorgeous. Alas, I had to be content with briefly looking at the sights and then quickly looking back at the ground to make sure I didn't trip and get a mouthful of leaves. The trail itself is super well-groomed, and there's not too much of a difference from a street run.

Pre-registration costs between 40 and 55 dollars. I got the latter because I like to sign up at the last possible moment to keep everyone guessing. I'm fashionably late to races. The cost includes a pretty cool race t-shirt, but there is no finishing medal. As someone who sometimes registers just for the swag, that was disappointing. However, this race is totally worth it, even if you can't walk around the rest of the morning, pawing your medal in restaurants so people will know how athletic you are. Instead, my legs reminded me that I'm not an elite athlete when I woke up the following morning.

This is near the start line. The rest of the race is even prettier, but taking a Canon on a half marathon is a little awkward.

There are also 6.6 and 10.6k races, if you'd like something a bit shorter or cheaper. Kids can enjoy an obstacle course, as well. After the race, there were bananas, bagels, and pretzels, standard finish line fare. Runners also got entered into a raffle with a few prizes. No wins for me, but I did earn a cool elderly person walk the next day.

My grade for this race? 10/10. I'd definitely recommend it, even if you're not attending an event three hours away the same day!

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