Smile Politely


In 14-degree wind chill this past Saturday, brave trail runners continued a tradition going back to 2000. The RiddleRun is a local fun run where fun is dependent on the weather and the company you take. It also helps if you can run far. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill jaunt through Lake of the Woods; this is for the dedicated.

The brainchild of Jeff Riddle, a bit of a running legend locally, this RiddleRun is “low-key and fun. You must not be a wimp, a whiner, or a complainer.” There are no awards other than the “thrill of victory and a warm pat on the back,” and a chocolate cream-filled cupcake. That’s it. Well, Jeff’s blog does state that there is a $1 million prize at stake; however, to win it, “all you have to do is finish the race under the current world record for the marathon held by Patrick Makau (Kenya) in 2:03:38 (that’s 4:21 mile pace for 28.4 miles).”

“I have the silly race info (like a $1M prize for breaking the world record) as a way of making fun of races and people that take themselves way too seriously,” Riddle said. “It ruins the thing to take it so seriously.”

RiddleRun is a highly anticipated event in the local running community. The Buffalo listserv, the trail running community’s email list, lights up early each year in anticipation of the year’s event with people wondering if it will take place, when it will happen, and who will take part.

“This is a run for people who love to run and want to celebrate it with like minded people in whatever weather the last Saturday of January has to show. It is not for serious people who expect to have everything given to them,” Jeff’s message to the list said.

Asked what he likes most about the event, Riddle said:

No doubt the people. See, I do very little for this event. I collect the names, put them on a sheet, make up silly rules, show up at 8:00 a.m. or so, say stupid stuff, then say ‘go.’ The run is all in fun and not taking ourselves and our running so seriously. But that does not mean you can’t run fast. There have been some good runners at this run. The people bring food, drink, firewood, tents, generators, etc. on their own. I don’t do anything. My wife even makes all the cupcakes so I can sleep the night before.

What are the distances? Like I said, it’s not your standard fun run. There is a 12+ mile run and a 28+ mile ultra. A runner can easily cut it short, doing shorter four-mile loops in case the weather is too rough.

There is no entry fee. There is no aid on the course; it is BYOB. And, there are no facilities available. It is the park in the middle of winter, after all. If nature calls, people figure out what to do pretty quickly.

Riddle’s running history is long. He has run for 40 years. He started running at age 14 after watching the 1972 Olympic marathon won by American Frank Shorter. Through 2011, Riddle has run 86,413 miles in his career, and about 60 marathons and ultra marathons. He works as assistant director of housing facilities planning at the University of Illinois.

This year’s event was in some doubt because last year’s RiddleRun was “unofficial.” “I’m still a little bummed out at our local park,” Riddle had posted last year about troubles he was having with Lake of the Woods.

“The unofficial came from my son Jason and a couple of buffalo,” he said. They wanted to keep the event going. But, this year “official” RiddleRun was on again.

Did you run this year’s event? How did it go?

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