There are hundreds of run races in Minnesota every year: fun runs, marathons, 10Ks and even mile runs. We found the five we think are the craziest in Minnesota. A half marathon while riding a hobby horse, a marathon run on a baseball diamond, another while carrying a canoe. We were especially interested in races that were Minnesota born and not part of a traveling show. We see these crazy races as another way to get people excited about getting outside, getting their legs moving and enjoying nature. Let us know any crazy Minnesota races we missed. We are sure we did.
Gear Western Half Marathon Hobby Horse Division
The Gear Western has always embraced its western identity: country costumes encouraged, country themed post-race party, and a long-sleeved flannel shirt for all participants. It came as no surprise (well, maybe a little) when the Gear Western race organizers introduced the Hobby Horse Division. The rules are simple, runners must run the entire 13.1 mile half marathon holding a hobby horse between their legs. Hopefully each hobby horse is artfully homemade. While creating this new category the crew at the Gear Western Half Marathon submitted an application to Guinness World Records for the fastest 1/2 Marathon while riding on a Hobby Horse. It's this simple, run the fastest half marathon with a hobby horse between your legs and you are the world record holder. They will also hold a 5k for those who wish to run with a hobby horse, but think a shorter distance might be more manageable. In 2018 Andrew Zabel ran 1:21.58 for a New Men's Unofficial World Record. (The folks at the Gear Western are waiting for official designation of their event) So, Get out your art supplies, create your own hobby horse, and sign up for the Hobby Horse Half Marathon or 5K.
March of 2019 runners (who also happened to be baseball fans) in Elk River started up their old snowblower and cleared the snow off the dirt path of the local baseball diamond. Three dozen runners toed the start line, which also happened to homebase. These sultans of running ran round and round the baseline. Passing their timing chip over the scanner each time around. Tallying up 384 laps. All those left turns. For a total of 26.2 miles. Spectators loved watching a long distance race all from the bleachers. Runners enjoyed a race where every racer was never more than 80 feet from the lead runner. By the way, they did all stop for a seventh inning stretch.
Ely Canoe Portage Full or Half Marathon (Full Marathon canoe relay also available)
Ely is the leaping of point for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This is the town where you get outfitted for your journey into the wilderness. While the wilderness you paddle your canoe and portage it too. At portages you lift your pack onto your back and your canoe onto your shoulders and hike up a rocky, frequently hilly, trail to the next lake. Portaging is the ultimate test in wilderness stamina and the perfect symbol of Minnesota’s Northwoods. It was a perfect and extremely crazy idea when the Ely Marathon crew came up with the Canoe Portage Division. This new race division where runners carry a canoe the duration of the marathon beautifully reflects the spirit of the north. The marathon portage is a spectacular 8,390 rods (there are 16 feet to a rod) long, although runners do not have to carry packs, their shoes are dry, the trail is not as rocky nor as hilly as a wilderness portage. So, lace up your shoes, shoulder your canoe, and get ready for the most iconic running event in the northwoods. Remember the canoe must weigh at least 40 pounds. Rental canoes are available for this event.
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4. Arrowhead 135
The toughest race of them all at the toughest time of year in the far north of Minnesota, racers ski, bike, or run 135 miles through snow and ice. The race starts at International Falls, Minnesota (America’s Icebox) on a Monday morning in late January and have until 7pm Wednesday night to trek the 135 miles to the finish, with little or no support. With super cold -30F temps this year only 52 out of 146 starters or 36% completed the race - a quite a bit lower than most years. For safety, racers are required to stop at three checkpoints and carry a minimum amount of safety gear, warm clothing, and food.
Harder ‘n Heck Half Marathon
A really tough race primarily on the super rugged and rocky Superior Hiking Trail with spectacular views of Lake Superior and the city of Duluth. You will be experiencing the wildest and most scenic half marathon anywhere, yet this one is runs through the city limits of Duluth. Along with the Harder ‘n Heck Half Marathon, Wild Duluth Races also runs the Terribly Tough 10K, and the 50k and 100k ultramarathons.