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Race Updates

Race Update #1

We hope you’re looking forward to the race on Saturday, April 28! 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 moderately tough but really fun trail system.

We’re at capacity with more than 550 racers. We especially welcome all the 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. Its stacked loop design (hub and spoke) allows for varying skill levels and routes. 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. You can access this update on the website if you need to reference it later.

Course Preview
Merrell will offer a course preview. Here are the details:

  • When: April 14. 9:00 am. Or come at 8:00 am and get more miles in with the West MI Trail Runners group.
  • How: RSVP and details here.
  • Where: Luton Park, Olde Meadow Dr NE & 10 Mile Rd NE, Rockford, MI 49341.
  • Who: Hurt the Dirt racers and anyone else.
  • Bonus: Merrell will have their Bare Access Flex and Agility Peak 2 demo shoes available for the preview. Great time to test a shoe with no risk.
  • I’ll be previewing my Coast to Coast bike race up north (unless we’re snowed out!) so thanks to Matt Stoutenberg of Merrell for organizing.
  • The course will not be flagged for the preview so follow Green > Black > Red > Green (connected by the Blue hub in between each trail) on the course map and trailhead posts.
  • If you are new and can’t make the preview, no worries; the course will be well marked on race day and with 550 fellow racers you’ll never be lonely.

Presenting Sponsors

  • Merrell. If you didn’t know, Merrell is both a locally owned and global running shoe and gear powerhouse. Merrell paid for half of your stainless steel pint finisher awards and has offered their $170 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.

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, charred corn salad and pesto tortellini – of any trail race this side of the Pacific Coast; thanks for the generous discount.
  • Metro Health Sports Medicine will provide medical support for the race. Their sports medicine group features a team of highly-skilled physicians and athletic trainers offering the latest tools and techniques to speed your recovery.
  • Athletico Grand Rapids will offer pre- and post-race stretching at the race. Athletico provides physical therapy and creates personal treatment plans that meet their patients’ needs. Located at Knapp’s Corner, Cascade, Kentwood and now Walker.
  • Moosejaw will provide men’s and women’s $150 gift packages. Check out their store in downtown Grand Rapids across from Downtown Market.
  • Gordon Water Systems offers the most reliable water softener systems, bottled water and coffee service in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Portage. Thanks for providing the refreshing water at the start/finish.
  • Jamie Geysbeek Photography specializes in event photography, including weddings, live music, race coverage and corporate events. Jamie offers a significant discount to racers and free high-res photo downloads from our races, on our Flickr page.
  • Tim Parks LC. A great resource for promotional products and decorated clothing for your business or event. Tim has provided shirts for our races since 2011. He also crafted the snazzy barnwood trophies some of you will take home.

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! Special Olympics Area 11 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, RJ VandenBerg Pig Roasting and Kingma’s Market for the discounted fruit.

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 those from California, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa and Pennsylvania.


Racer list
Click on Who’s Registered on the RunReg site to see who is racing. 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 some 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 $170 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 order one by April 22 within your RunReg account. 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.

Changes, Cancellations

  • Change distance: Sign into your RunReg account, select the new distance. You’ll be charged if you are changing to a longer distance. Once you are in, you can move to any distance. Online changes will be taken through about Wednesday of race week. After that, we’ll take changes by email or on race day if necessary (go right to Epic Race Timing tent).
  • Transfers: Sign into your RunReg account, click the Transfer link on the right side. You and your replacement figure out the money exchange on your own (e.g., PayPay). I’m pretty much a one man show so sorry but I can’t play matchmaker between you and people on the wait list. Post on the Facebook page or at West Michigan Trail Runners if you seek a transfer.
  • Deferments: email me to defer to next year. $20 admin fee so transfer if you can. Ordered a shirt? We’ll cancel your shirt if it’s by the Sunday of race week and return your money.

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 27, 4-7 pm. Sorry, we can only do this in-person. Parking fees go to Kent County Parks.
  • I think we’ll have 60 or so passes available 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 27, 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 race number a few days before the race. Bring when you check in.
  • You may collect race numbers 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 app 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
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; if you are close, we will not pull you off the course)

Start Logic
Popular trail races often have congested trails and although Hurt the Dirt hasn’t had many complaints, shifting the quarter marathon start to BEFORE the half marathon last year decreased congestion for the majority. Quarter marathoners will finish the race before they meet up with many of the marathoners on lap two and before half marathoners catch them, 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 a better experience for all.

Please order yourselves in the wave chute based on where you normally finish during a race. We may or may not have pace signs up in the chute. I’ll do my best to call our minute/mile paces to help you know where you should be.

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 gear bag 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 likely be near the trailhead kiosk and gear drop tent for quick, mid-race use.

What to Wear/Weather

  • If we get heavy rain all of race week, we may have to avoid the Black and Red loops per our permit with Kent County Parks..  Instead, you would 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.
  • A Metro Health Sports Medicine doctor and Rockford Ambulance will be at the start/finish to help with medical issues. Athletico can help with stretching and physical therapy.
  • 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 (and hard impacts)..
  • 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.
  • Awareness on the trail is important for safety and respect. Music is discouraged. If you choose to listen to music, 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. 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. $7 for adults, $4 for kids. Please pay on RunReg.

See you April 28!



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