Birkie Trail Run to host USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships

The USATF Half Marathon Trail Running Championships will be held in Cable, WI, on Saturday, September 24, at the Birkie Trail Running Festival. Birkie also hosted this national championship in 2017, 2018, 2020, and 2021.

This year’s course will start and finish at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead located on McNaught Road in Cable, WI. The half marathon features 80 percent ski trails and 20 percent single track with more than 1000 feet in elevation gain. The ski trail sections of the course range from10 to 30 feet wide and are mostly grass covered. Some sections have a dirt “goat path” formed on them, some do not get much summer use and are grass-covered from edge to edge. The trails are built in a region with glacial topography, littered with potholes and ridges. The ski trails were built to attack the terrain with the slopes going directly up the fall line. This creates a seemingly endless run of steep ups and downs. Most of the climbs are small (less than 50 feet) but are steep, with slopes between 10- 20%. It is very different terrain from alpine regions, but equally challenging with hundreds of small to medium climbs adding up to a large amount of total climb. The descents are equally steep and relentless.

Trail Championships

Andy Wacker winning the 2020 USATF Half Marathon Trail Championship.

The single track trails are built and maintained by the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association for mountain biking. They are all intermediate to expert level trails. They are much less steep than the ski trails utilizing switchbacks on the slopes rather than heading directly up the fall line. They are generally more winding than a typical hiking trail. The surface is mineral soil with all the organics removed. The drainage is very good and there are only a few wet spots after a heavy rain. They are smooth with differing amounts of rocks and roots depending on the section of trail. There are some built “rock gardens” that are easy to navigate.

The field for the national championships includes 20 athletes representing 11 states, with registration still open.

Birkie Trail Run

Joseph Gray at the Birkie Trail Run. Photo: Richard Bolt.

In addition to USATF Championship medals for the top ten men and women, masters’ medals will be presented to the top three men and women ages 40 and over in five-year increments. A total of $6000 in prize money will be awarded. Equal money for men and women will be $1000 for first, $800 for second, $600 for third, $400 for fourth and $200 for fifth.

For a recap of prior USATF Half Marathon Trail Championships hosted by the Birkie Trail Run, click the links for 2017 and for 2018, for 2020 and for 2021.

Trail Championships

Dani Moreno winning the 2021 Birkie Trail Run. Photo: Lin Gentling.