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Race Updates

Race Update #1

We hope you’re looking forward to the race on Saturday, April 29! Some races are about the celebration. Others are about performing well. We hope you’ll find Hurt the Dirt to be about both – a celebration of running on trails and the running community and a challenge to perform at your best on a tough but really fun trail system.

Thank you for supporting the race. We are at capacity with 550+ racers. We have over 75 people on the wait list so if you know that you need to defer your entry to next year, please let me know so we can determine if any more waitlisters can be invited.

We welcome 120 first-time trail runners! You’re going to do great. Running on trails is sometimes thrilling, sometimes peaceful, always memorable.

Luton Park is widely considered one of the top trail systems in the Lower Peninsula for both running and biking. Its trails were designed with sustainability and flow in mind. Luton stays in great condition, drains well, offers a forgiving surface, and is designed so runners can maintain momentum with smooth ups, downs and turns. If you haven’t run this trail, we think you’ll love it.

With the race full, we decided to send this update out early so everyone is well informed as the race approaches. We’ll send some key details later in April as well. As usual with my updates, this is LONG (sorry) but should answer your questions. No need to read all the race day details now but please read the next few paragraphs concerns events between now and race day. You can always reference race updates under the Information page on the race site.

April 15 Course Preview Event
Join us for a course preview on Saturday, April 15, at 9:00 am. If you have Facebook, RSVP here. Otherwise, it’s okay to just show up. Can’t make it? No worries, the trail will be well marked on race day. We’ll do one 6.5 mile loop as a group. Well, you will. I just had ankle surgery so I’ll be manning the aid station at the finish. You may come early to fit in some extra miles or stay after to run more but those won’t be part of the preview event. We’ll start by raffling off a pair of Agility Peak Flex trail shoes from Merrell!! Enter when you arrive. Raffle at 9:10ish. Merrell will also have demo Agility Peak Flex shoes to try out on the trail. These well-reviewed shoes are now available at Gazelle Sports store and on their website; check out the men’s and women’s shoes.

April 19 Parks Matter Breakfast
Looking for outdoor & race lovers to fill a Michigan Adventure Racing/Hurt the Dirt table at the Parks Matter breakfast at 7:30 am on April 19 in support of Kent County Parks & Kent County Parks Foundation. At the Salvation Army Kroc Center in GR. Hurt the Dirt would still be located at Seidman Park with a really awkward course and venue (remember 2012 old-timers?) if it weren’t for funding for Luton Park. If you can make it, please let me know.

April 22 Course Clean-up Day
Join us for the annual Luton Trail Day on April 22, 9:00 am to noon. If you have Facebook, RSVP here. A great way to give back to Luton. We will do some spring maintenance and also finish the optional trail off the Green Loop (which happens to be the adopted trail of Michigan Adventure Racing and Hurt the Dirt). Includes a free lunch provided by West Michigan Bike & Fitness. The West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance will provide the tools but bring extra rakes and chain saws (if you have them), gloves, hard boots, bug spray and water.

Presenting Sponsors

  • Merrell. If you didn’t know, Merrell is both a locally owned and global running shoe and gear powerhouse, part of Wolverine Worldwide headquartered just two miles from where you’ll be running. Merrell paid for half of your awesome stainless steel pint finisher awards and has offered their $130 Merrell Money cards for shoes or apparel to the twelve first-place winners (three races, male and female, under 40 and 40+).
  • Gazelle Sports. Gazelle Sports is one of the top running specialty stores in the U.S., with stores located in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Holland on the west side of Michigan and Birmingham and Northville on the east side. Gazelle will provide 216 gift certificates for age group winners! If you need shoes or gear for the race, we encourage you to visit them.
  • Spectrum Health. Spectrum Health is the largest employer in West Michigan and a top-five large health system in the U.S. Hurt the Dirt is our least profitable race (don’t worry, it’s still financially healthy) because we put on such a big post-race feast. Financial support from Spectrum Health allows us to keep feeding you so well.

Gold, Silver and Bronze Sponsors

  • Ramona’s Table, offering great food and a great location in Rockford by the dam. Each year they bring us the best veggie sides – quinoa, broccoli almond salad and pesto tortellini – of any trail race this side of the Pacific Coast; thanks for the generous discount.
  • Athletico Grand Rapids (Knapp’s Corner) will offer pre- and post-race stretching at the race. Athletico provides physical therapy and other rehabilitation services and creates personal treatment plans that meet their patients’ needs. East Beltline near Twisted Rooster.
  • Founders Brewing Co., one of the best breweries in the world as ranked by beer experts and regular beer drinkers too. Thanks for the highly coveted gift cards we’ll raffle off. You may bring your own Founders (or another lesser beverage) to the race and enjoy it in your stainless steel pint.
  • Gordon Water Systems offers the most reliable water softener systems, bottled water and coffee service in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Portage. Thanks for the refreshing water at the start/finish so we don’t have to go find water outside the park to refill.
  • Clif Bar provides good food crafted with a purpose. Their recipes are purposefully crafted to help provide the energy you need. Pick up a Shot Blok sample or two at check-in (my favorite source of energy during endurance bike and adventure races).
  • Rockford Ambulance is your community paramedic ambulance service, nationally accredited and non-profit. Thanks for your support.
  • Jamie Geysbeek Photography specializes in wedding, corporate event, live music, and race photography, along with portraiture. Jamie offers services to racers at 20% off his normal rates and free high-res pics on our Flickr photo site if he captured you during the race.

Support businesses that support local trail running. Take a minute to drop by their booth if they have one at the race or try out their products or services in the future.

A big thanks to all the volunteers who will be working a lot of hours to help this race go smoothly. Please thank them as you run by them if you have a breath to do so! Camp Blodgett is our charity partner for the race and will have volunteers out there as well. A portion of race profits will help send deserving children to summer camp  – children whose families would otherwise not be able to afford it. Thanks also to Kent County Parks for allowing us to race at Luton each year (and the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance for their support).

Also thanks to our vendors for discounts and special deals including Epic Race Timing for affordable chip-timing, Orpheus DJ Service and Kingma’s Market for the discounted fruit, soon to open a new store in Ada (where I live so I’m excited).

This map shows where most of you will be coming from (nearby postal codes clustered together; not exact location). A special thanks to those of you who are traveling from far away for this race (or adding the race into your visit) including Marquette, Rochester, MN, and Arab, AL, not shown here.


Racer list
Here’s the racer list through today. Email me if your information is incorrect. We’ll provide the final racer list with age group divisions and your bib number by Wednesday of race week.

About half of you will win something at Hurt the Dirt (assuming three people in every age group). That’s ridiculous. We’re excited to offer 250+ prizes including 12 new pairs of Merrell shoes, 216 gift certificates from Gazelle Sports, gift cards from Founders Brewing and more.

  • Finisher award. Every finisher will receive our Hurt/Merrell stainless steel pint for crossing the line – usable and memorable at the same time. For those of you who prefer a wood medal, we have about 75 left from last year. You can choose that instead of the pint if you wish. First come, first served (i.e., the quarter marathoners get first crack).
  • The twelve overall and masters winners will receive $130 Merrell Money cards good for shoes (certificates good at Gazelle Sports stores; in store only) and custom wood trophies.
  • Gazelle Sports gift certificates will be awarded to the top three runners in the following age groups: Under 15, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65+. For in-store use only. If you do not live near their stores, consider stopping by the Grand Rapids store after the race; it’s a fairly quick drive from Luton.

If you did not order a shirt but would like to buy one now, you may use this form to pay the $15 by April 23. Mens/adult crew or women’s v-neck, slightly contoured. Generally to size. Some say they run just a bit larger than normal sizes so you may want to go with the smaller size if you are right in between sizes. Order one now to guarantee you get one, especially if you wear a size that’s less popular. We do order extras and may have some left over after the final check-in (9:45 am or so) if you decide to wait.

Changing distances
Email me if you want to drop down from a longer distance to a shorter distance or pay to run a longer distance. We’ll take changes as late as race day (thanks Epic Race Timing) but it’s much easier to handle it earlier.

Deferments & Transfers
It stinks when you can’t race. Even worse when the race takes all your money. What’s up with that? Maybe we’re stupid, but we think you should be able to defer a decent portion of your fee until next year (we will allow transfers but prefer deferments because we want you back; both are just a $10 admin fee). We’ll cancel your shirt and money will be good for next year as well. Offer good only up until Sunday, April 23 – if we have awful weather the week of the race and masses of racers defer to 2018, we’re at a financial risk next year. See the Register page for instructions on how to defer or transfer.

Parking passes
Marathoners paid for parking passes in their entry fee. We’ll email passes to marathoners soon. Others can buy the $5 pass for the Luton lot at early check-in at Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids on Friday, April 28, 4-7 pm. Sorry, we can only do this in-person. Parking fees go to Kent County Parks. I think we’ll have just 40 or so passes available this year because our marathon field has jumped from 42 last year to 98! I have no idea why but it’s exciting to have a more competitive marathon this year. Passes are first come, first served.

No worries if you can’t get a pass. The shuttle is free, efficient and just 1 mile to the east. Plus Crossroads Church will have coffee, snacks and bathrooms if needed. Thanks! We have a good gear check system so bring a bag with you. More details on parking below.


  • Check in is Friday, April 28, 4-7 pm at Gazelle Sports, 3930 28th ST or Saturday morning at Luton Park, 45 minutes before the race to be safe.
  • We will email your bib number a few days before the race. Bring when you check in.
  • You may collect bibs and shirts for friends. Just make sure they know.
  • If you didn’t order a shirt or you need a different size, you must wait until AFTER half marathon check-in Saturday to get it (likely about 9:45 am – until after all those who purchased their shirts get their correct size).

For most of you, the best bet is to take US-131 or the East Beltline (aka Wolverine/M-44) to 10 Mile Road. Turn east. From there, you have three options.

  1. Shuttle. Use 6750 10 Mile Rd NE, Rockford in your map tool to get to the shuttle lot at Crossroads Wesleyan Church, one mile east of Luton Park on the southwest corner of 10 Mile and Myers Lake Road. You may drop off a full load of passengers first, but to avoid congestion groups of two or three should continue on one minute to the shuttle lot which will go very fast. We rented two buses so most of you will have a wait under five minutes.
  2. Park at Luton (with $5 pass and all marathoners). Although Luton does not have a postal address, 10 Mile Rd NE and Olde Meadow Rd NE, Rockford in Google Maps will take you to the lot entrance.
  3. Warm-up Run. Park at Crossroads Church. Run one mile west.You may NOT park on Olde Meadow which is a private road or on the shoulder of 10 Mile Rd or the Luton Park entrance. 

Schedule of events
6:45 am Luton Park 10 Mile lot opens (requires pass)
6:45 am marathon check-in begins
7:45 am shuttle begins from Crossroads Church for half and quarter marathon
7:45 am quarter/half check-in begins (finish at least 25 minutes before start time)
8:00 am marathon start
9:30 am quarter marathon start (waves)
10:00 am half marathon start (waves)
10:45 am kids fun run (not 10:15 am)
10:30 am – 2:45 pm brunch/lunch
2:00 pm shuttle bus ends; volunteers take over shuttling duties
2:45 pm cut-off for all racers (subject to race director’s discretion)

Start Logic
Popular trail races often have congested trails and although Hurt the Dirt hasn’t had many complaints, we are shifting the quarter marathon start to BEFORE the half marathon. Quarter marathoners will finish the race before they meet up with many of the marathoners on lap two and most of the half marathoners on lap one, which will cut the number of racers passing or being passed drastically between the three distances. Quarter marathoners will have more of a brunch than a lunch but it should make for our smoothest race experience yet. Let us know in the post-race survey if this worked or not.

Please order yourselves in the wave chute based on where you normally finish during a race. We will not have pace signs up in the chute – it’s just too complicated for a race of our size. I’ll do my best to call our minute/mile paces to help you know where you should be.

Marathoners at risk of the 2:45 pm cut-off can email me to discuss.

Pre-Race Prep/Bag Drop

  • Bring a bag with clothes to change into (changing rooms available), warm-up clothes, bib. Camp chair if you want.
  • Gear check. We can keep your gear bag secure.
  • Drop bag area. If you are a half or full marathoner wanting quick access to your gear DURING the race, you may want to use the drop bag tarp next to the Merrell tent so you can access the bag as you make the turn to do your next lap.
  • Start-finish layout. Portajohns are located in three places: the majority are in the grass area west of the trailhead. One is in the changing room structure just north of the others. One will be near the trailhead kiosk and gear drop tent for quick, mid-race use.

What to Wear/Weather

  • If we get heavy rain all week, we may have to avoid the Black and Red loops per our permit with Kent County Parks..  Instead, you’ll do more loops of Green and Blue as necessary to keep distances about the same. Not ideal, but better than cancelling the race! Running and biking in heavy mud can permanently widen the trail (most people run around puddles and mud) so we want to be good caretakers of the trail.
  • If you are new to racing and struggle with knowing what to wear, a good rule of thumb is to dress 15-20 degrees warmer than the feels-like temperature at race time, maybe even more considering much of the course is sheltered from the wind.
  • You may dump off warm-up clothes before the start at the gear check/drop bag area (or drop them on the outside of the start chute).
  • In case of severe weather (e.g., thunderstorms) we will wait as along as possible for storms to pass and finish the race up when lightning or severe winds are no longer a threat. Stay in your car if storms roll in before the race and we’ll communicate to the shuttle driver when the coast is clear. We’ll then wait for everyone to get shuttled over. If we have to cancel the race, we can’t provide a refund due to all the upfront costs but we will provide a partial credit for next year’s race.

Pre-Race Raffle
Since people leave at different times Saturday, we will do our primary raffle before the race. Look for another email later in April with all the winners. Pick up your prize at check-in or after the race. If we have additional prizes to raffle off, we’ll raffle them throughout the day.


  • Shirts and sweatshirts – prices vary ($20-$30)
  • Buffs – $10, full length head/neckwear ($18-25 for national brands).
  • Pints – $10
  • Stickers – $3 ($1 if you promise to put it on your vehicle)



  • Here’s the course map. One loop is just over 6.5 miles (wheel-measured; gps varies wildly). One loop for the quarter marathon, two for half, four for the full marathon. The elevation gain/lost is roughly 700-750 feet I believe (GPS varies greatly), mostly in 5-15 feet ups and downs. It’s fun, flowing singletrack running. We didn’t say easy, but fun.
  • Within the green, black, and red  “spoke” trails that are linked by the blue “hub” trail, there is only one way to go with just a few exceptions. We will only flag those exceptions within the spoke trails. We will flag all intersections where you turn off or return to the “hub” blue trail. Red or orange flags crossing the trail means do not access that trail. If you are jumping over these flags, you are going the wrong way. Just follow the line of flags extending down the correct trail at any junction. We will not use tape across trails because bikers and other trail users are allowed to be on the trail during the race, although strongly discouraged. MI Adventure Racing and WMMBA are asking people to use another trail that day.
  • There will be mile markers at each mile. If you miss a sign, it may help you to know that the start of Black is about 1.4 miles and Red starts at 4 miles.
  • Aid stations. We’ll have aid stations at these 1.4 and 4-mile trailheads along with the start/finish, just after starting lap 2. Black will have water and Gatorade; Red will add sweet and salty snacks. We cannot guarantee that all food items will be available at the end so carry your favorite food/gels if it’s critical to your performance. Half and full marathoners may certainly eat your BBQ pork and/or veggies/fruit DURING the race. Fruit will be available at the start.
  • There are no portajohns out on the course but we will position one right at the start of the next lap so you don’t have to run through the parking lot. Hopefully the portajohn company will get it right this year.


  • See the start-finish layout so you understand how you’ll flow from start to lap 2-4 (if applicable) to finish. The start chute is to the left/north of all the tents. Gather in that chute based on your typical finish position in a race.
  • Your start time will begin once you cross the mat (your timing chip is adhered to the back of your bib) so no need to be up front in the chute unless you are that speedy.
  • If you need to leave the course to hit the portajohn, get some emergency stretching, demolish some pig or deli sides, etc., please exit through the finish chute. Do NOT go back through the start chute. We need you to cross the mat so you get credit for the lap. We’ll remind you of this at the race. Unless I forget. I’m getting old. That’s why I’m telling you now.
  • The Green and Blue loops have ample opportunities to pass so get in the appropriate pace position before you get to Black at mile 1.4 where things get a bit tighter. Because vegetation is still thin from the winter, you can pass in many, many places throughout the race course.
  • Please stay away from the start mats near the inflatable start/finish so your chip doesn’t accidentally start early.


  • Most volunteers will have mobile phones so flag a volunteer (or runner) down if injured and they can call for help.
  • Rockford Ambulance will be at the start/finish to help with medical issues.
  • Tip: If you do decide to get intimate with the dirt, roll onto your shoulder rather than your wrist! Your odds of falling in a trail race may be greater, but trail running is safer and better for your body than road running. Give yourself some space behind runner in front of you and keep your body (and mind) loose; it has an amazing way of flexing to handle varied terrain.
  • Please pay special attention to the children running in the Kids’ Run on the Green loop from 10:15-10:45. They may or may not run in a straight line so give them a wide berth if you pass any of them in the final 150 meters of the race/loop.

Trail Etiquette

  • Alert any non-racing patrons (and other racers) if approaching from behind with “on your left” (or right if it presents a better passing lane, but left is standard) when you see a wide enough spot just ahead. Both the person being passed and the person passing should be working together to make the pass happen easily.
  • Be aggressive and sprint by; don’t wait for that perfect passing lane or things will back up behind you.
  • If you need to walk during part of the race, please stay to the right, single-file if you are with another participant. Two-abreast walkers or runners is strictly prohibited.
  • Music is strongly discouraged; please remove one ear bud and keep the volume low so you can hear people wanting to pass behind you.
  • Dogs (and bad-ass cats) are not allowed with runners on- or off-leash.
  • Non-registered “bandit” and pacer runners are not allowed and will be subjected to a 550-racer wedgie machine.
  • Please hold any trash such as gel wrappers until you get to one of the aid stations where we will have garbage bags.

Kids’ Run

  • The free kids’ run will start at 10:45 am (new time to allow for most quarter marathoners to finish ahead of them). It will consist of most of the youth bike trail inside the north section of the Green loop and connects with the Green loop on the way back to the finish. You may run it with your child at a different time if 10:15 am doesn’t work.
  • Parents please sign a waiver for your child. We’ll have a few monitors out there, but parents should run with younger children. Keep in mind that the Green loop section of the kids course is being used by adult racers so please don’t run or walk two-wide with your kids on this section.
  • Each kid 12 or under receives a medal.


  • The start/finish provides a good vantage point, although seating is mostly on long grass so spectators (and you after the race) may want a chair or blanket.
  • Venture out on the two-three wide Blue “hub” trail to see more of the action, off to the side and in clockwise direction so you can see runners coming at you. Walk single-file and step aside for the runners as needed.
  • Spectators should stay off the Black and Red trails unless they want to “bushwhack” next to the trail.


Post-Race Lunch
A pretty spectacular lunch will be provided to all registered runners. You must show your bib. Our feast has been featured in Runner’s World.

  • Pig roast from R.P. Vanden Berg, deli sides from Ramona’s Table and fruit from Kingma’s Market.
  • Seconds may be allowed once we ensure we have enough for the marathoners who will be finishing later.
  • Note: The quinoa is the nut-free deli option if needed.
  • If so inclined, bring some sweets/dessert, bag of chips, or a favorite side or drink to share (alcohol is permitted; no kegs please). It’s nice to round out the lunch with some more variety. Everyone bringing food can have a free MI Adventure Racing sticker.

Spectator/guest lunch.
We will offer our lunch to spectators again this year. Please pass this info along to any guests coming to watch you.

  • No need to contact me with your order unless you have a group larger than seven stomachs.
  • To keep things simple, the $7 rate will apply to all ages (except the tiny eaters). $7 is below actual cost. Please pay at the beginning of the lunch line.

See you in four weeks!


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