This weekend I had the pleasure of running the entire 51 miles of the Prairie Spirit Trail. The trail starts in Ottawa, KS and ends in Iola, KS. After a whole year of training for and running races, including 4 100 milers, and a handful of other races. I was looking for a long trail in Kansas to just go out run for fun, with out all the stresses of training and racing.
The Prairie Spirit Trail is an old rail trail and in my own back yard so to speak, only 25 miles or so from my home. I knew of the trail but never realized it was that long. I contacted the director of the Prairie Spirit Trail to see if anyone had ever run the entire length of the trail, and found out to any ones knowledge no one had ever done it. So that became my motivation for wanting to go out and run the entire trail.
If you have never ran on rails to trails these trails are smooth, flat and fast. I have 13 or so miles of the Flint Hills Trail a mile from my house that I pound on a regular basis. I want to start by saying I highly recommend the Prairie Spirit Trail to any runner or bicyclist looking for a place to get in a good run or ride. This trail was the most up kept trail I have ever run on. And with water at all the trail heads, no more than 7 miles apart, make this a perfect trail for getting in a good long run or ride.
My run started at 7am in front of the Old Depot Museum in Ottawa, KS. It was a cool morning start at 27 degrees. Not bad, as it would warm up nicely when the sun comes up and make it a perfect day for running. The first 3 miles or so through Ottawa are paved through town, then turning to a nice wide limestone trail. I was so excited to be running the first 9.4 miles went by really fast as I enjoyed the scenery with a fresh frost on the ground and farmland on both sides of the trail. I seen a couple deer, a bunch of turkeys and 3 of the biggest coyote's I have ever seen. My wife meet me at the Princeton Trail head mile 9.4 to refill my water bottles and restock my supplies. From there it was another 6.4 miles to the Richmond Trail head. These first few miles were some of the most peaceful miles I think I have ever run. It was so nice to just be out there running for fun in nature. My next stop was the Garnett Depot mile 24.9, and to my surprise there was about 15 friends of the Prairie Spirit Trail there to cheer me on. It was a nice pick me up being about at the 1/2 way point to have all these people there to see me for a few minutes. This was also where I picked up my pacer for the final 26 miles. Sherrie Klover of Bashor, KS had graciously volunteered to spend her Saturday running with me. Sherrie is an accomplished marathon runner and one tough cookie when it comes to running. And it was a pleasure to have her there running with me. From here me and Sherrie chatted and enjoyed each others company and before we knew it we were at the Welda Trail Head mile 33.1. And our crews were there, my wife Darcie and son Jarret, and Sherries husband Henry, to re-supply us with everything we needed. From here the temps rose and the wind also picked up, I'm guessing we were running into a 15-20 mile headwind for the final 20 miles. From here to Colony mile 40.9 the trail parallels Hwy 169 and is mainly in the open with no trees to block the wind it was tough going and our pace was somewhat slowed through here. Once we arrived at Colony our crew was there to once again re-hydrate and re-fuel us and send us on our way. From Colony to Carlyle mile 46.5 we were both feeling a little fatigued a typical happening that runners refer to as "hitting the wall". This stretch seemed to go on for ever and we couldn't wait get there to have out crew put us back together for the final leg. I seemed to remember from the trail map it was 6+ miles from Carlyle to Iola, so when we arrived and Henry informed us it was only 4.2 we were relieved, and re-energised to finish this thing. From here we were both ready to see the finish and the closer we got the more energised and talkative we got. When we hit the paved trail in Iola we knew it wasn't far and we began to congratulate each other on an amazing run and reminisce about why we both run. When we finally seen our crew waiting for us at the Iola Trail Head cheering us in it's always nice finish. As I crossed the finish line my time was 8:12.48 not to bad for 51 miles and running into a headwind. Sherrie was at a little over 26 miles on her garmin so we had to run an extra .2 miles so she could say she ran a marathon. I have to say I would of done the same thing. It was a moral victory for us both and I am proud to say I'm the first person to run the entire Prairie Spirit Trail. Thanks again to the Prairie Spirit Trail, our wonderful crew, Darcie, Jarret and Henry without them this is not possible. And a special thank you to Sherrie for coming out and running a tough 26 miles with me. I hope to do it again someday soon.