This was my second ultramarathon, and the first in my home state of North Dakota. A fairly young race, the END-SURE (Sandhills Ultra Run Experience) is put on each year in March, a typically cold and horrid time to run outside for a long distance. Fortunately, this year, things were a bit different.
The race organizers send out a few emails prior to the race, giving an idea of where and when packet pickup, etc. is going to be, which is really all you need. No superfluous emails about how awesome the sponsors, etc are (although they are). Packet pickup is a small affair, this year they gave out t-shirts to all runners which are super nice and comfy. Last year, it was gloves from what I've heard.
In the packet itself are a sticker, the bib, pins, and a few guides to the Fargo-Moorhead area, which is where packet pickup was. It is also the closest city to the site of the race, so presumably out of town runners stayed there. Since it's where I live, I really appreciated having it close to go get the bib and t-shirt.
As far as race day, This year, the 50K started differently. Having not run it before, I can only offer hearsay, but my understanding is it used to be an out and back course. This year, they had people park at the finish, and then bussed the runners to the starting gate, creating a point to point race. The race actually started early, by the way. First time I've ever seen that. But if all the runners are together, no reason to keep them standing around in the cold, right?
Being a small race, there were not many amenities, although I didn't feel there was a need for them. The RD offered up a cell phone number for runners to call if they chose to drop, and the first of three aid stations was self-serve. But the volunteers at the other two were amazingly helpful and positive. The first third of the race is through pasture land, as the race takes place entirely on the North Country Trail, so if you like to see where cattle graze, this one's for you. Personally, although it led for some fun, fast miles, it was my least favorite portion of the race. Once you got into the Sandhills themselves, the scenery became quite striking and enjoyable. The trail at this point was much easier to follow and got a bit more technical. Loads of fun here. Best part of the course.
At the end of the race, food was provided, brats and black bean burgers, as well as beer, although that may have just been brought by some friendly Canadians. Regardless, a very welcoming environment at the end. A few things about the course. Despite not much elevation, it is a lot tougher than you might think. Granted, my quad blew out about 20 miles in so it was a long hike to the finish, but don't take the fact that it's a trail ultra in North Dakota lightly. Can't wait to run it again next year.
I would absolutely recommend this to anyone and everyone looking at upper Midwest ultras.