The Ice Age Trail 50 is one of the oldest, continuously running 50-mile races in the country.
If you haven’t already heard the story, the IAT50 was conceived by ultrarunner Tom Ulik and Badgerland Strider’s President Glenn Wargolet in a Milwaukee tavern back in 1981. Concerned mostly about the logistics needed to stage a 50-mile race, Glenn (RD 2005-09) imagined a one-mile loop course in a Milwaukee County Park. Tom (RD 1982-86) had a different idea. He invited Glenn to a run in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest. And that’s all it took. The first Ice Age Trail 50 happened less than a year later.
The IAT50 has been an important part of the Midwest and national ultrarunning scene ever since. The race has attracted some of the country’s best distance runners — and hosted some truly epic finishes. We are especially proud of the fact that so many of our athletes keep coming back. Today, there are 152 members in our 500-mile club (10 Ice Age 50 finishes) and 22 runners who have completed the 50-mile race 20 times. Our Hall of Fame also includes 12 indestructible ultrarunners who have more than 20 finishes: Andy Arena (30), Jim Blanchard (26), Bob Telfer (25), Andy Klapperich (25), Parker Rios (25), Tom Balzola (24), Pat Gorman (24), Ross Meyer (23), Roy Pirrung (22), Gail Edgar (21), Bill Thom (21) and Deb Vomhof (21).
All three Ice Age runs — 50-mile, 50k and Half Marathon — take you through some scenic, historic and geologically fascinating areas. You’ll run in dense deciduous forests, across open prairies, under tall pines and over rocky ridges – and see lakes, kettles, kames, erratics and other natural features left when the glaciers finally retreated from Wisconsin more than 10,000 years ago. The ultra courses pass by sites that provide a glance into the lives of the area’s first settlers and climb Bald Bluff, a place revered by Native Americans and the location of the Black Hawk War, the last major Indian war in Wisconsin. (Included among the 3,500 soldiers who camped beside the bluff were two future US Presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Zachary Taylor.)
If you like fast company, you’ll find it at Ice Age. In 2014, Max King from Bend, Oregon ran the 50-mile race in 5:41, smashing our 26-year old course record by 12 minutes — and Kaci Lickteig from Nebraska (2016 WS 100 winner) bettered the women’s CR by four minutes, running 6:41. In fact, four runners clocked under six hours in 2014, which is remarkable in that only five other runners had run sub-6s in the preceding 32 years!
And our volunteers are simply the best. They understand what you’re doing out there and will do whatever they can to get you to the finish — whether it involves refilling your water bottle, giving you a pat on the back or a kick in the ass. This year, Craig and Mary Hopper will be celebrating their 30th year as Ice Age Captains at the Hwy 12 aid station. Jim and Karen Bain and their Duffin Road crew has been assisting runners for more than 27 years. And Franny Keyes has been sorting drop bags (by color) at the Horseriders Aid Station for more than two decades.
Personally, I’ve been involved with the IAT50 in one way or another since the mid 1990s — first as a volunteer, then as a runner (8 50-mile finishes) and, for the past seven years, as race director. Among my goals as RD is to preserve the race’s reputation as a well-organized, well-marked and competitive race and to preserve the old-school vibe that distinguishes this race from the multitude of others that fill today’s ultrarunning race calendar.
The weather in May? Hard to say. Race day last year was cool and cloudy. The two previous years were sunny with temperatures topping out in the 70s. To learn more about the weather, the course and the race itself, explore this website – or “like” us on Facebook and receive additional news and updates.
We’re glad you choose Ice Age — and look forward to greeting you at the finish line!
P.S. If you’re wondering what makes this race so special, take a few moments and peruse the race reports posted on this website.