Overall Rating
Overall Rating (5 Reviews)
5
(5 Ratings)(5 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
4.2
SCENERY
4.6
PRODUCTION
4.2
SWAG
4.4
Located in the visually stunning Marin Headlands, The North Face Endurance Challenge Championship course engages runners with both scenic views and drastic elevation change. You won’t want to miss out on this trail running event that draws participants ranging from first time racers to elite runners.
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Recent reviews

    marcok FIRST-TIMER '16

    I did this with my daughters and we had a blast. It is great relay where each leg is out and in so the ones that are not running can … MORE

    I did this with my daughters and we had a blast. It is great relay where each leg is out and in so the ones that are not running can all wait together in one place.

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    3
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    Solupia FIRST-TIMER '17

    It's reverse logic the way I train and NO underage should ever attempt! This is my 3rd ultramarathon ever and yet I have not competed in a 50-mile race yet. … MORE

    It’s reverse logic the way I train and NO underage should ever attempt! This is my 3rd ultramarathon ever and yet I have not competed in a 50-mile race yet. You must be thinking I did 2 50k as my training run then. Nope either! I actually did a 100k and a 100mile. In fact, my 100-mile race was only 2 weeks before the 50 mile, so you now understand me a little bit better of where I am coming from. Insanity is in my blood.

    With enough divergence, let’s talk about the logistic of this race and what to be expected. This race is surprisingly easy to run. The course is 95-99% non technical, which means you really need to pace yourself. There are switchbacks, but no significant treacherous steep climb. Compared to my previous 100 mile race, this is half the distance but with 2000 ft more elevation gain, giving it slightly over 10,000 ft gain. You are spending most of your time going up and down. Watch out your quads! With my legs still recovering from my 100-mile race, my knees were bruised up from the downhills. I didn’t realized that was possible, but when your muscles are overworked, you put more stress on your joints, and sometimes that stress can be great enough to burst some capillaries bed on their own. I highly suggest you to train for some downhill if you are planning to run this race.

    The North Face 50-Mile has one of the prettiest course sceneries in the Region if you are lucky with the weather. Guess what? No coastal fog on race day! This meant I got to see the horizon across from the shoreline at Muir Beach and Stinson Beach, and no fog hiding the Golden Gate. You also get to run through the Muir Wood National Monument. You end up getting a quick private nature tour of California coastal ecosystems, from oak woodland to grassland to sand bluff to riparian forest to redwood forest to mixed temperate forest. And you can see them all in 1 day.

    Aid stations are spaced out evenly with the furthest segment less than a 10k distance. I came somewhat prepared for my personal nutrition, but I ended up saving mine in the drop bags and utilizing what are on the course.

    Course marking is Outstanding. I am terrible with direction usually when I run on a trail race. But the course is super well-marked that, you must be not paying attention to miss a turn. The only confusion I have heard from other folks were that they ran the wrong direction after stopping for aid stations. I highly suggest all runners to ALWAY communicate with the aid station volunteers to confirm where you are exiting to not back track the way you come from. I know how it is to be a long distance runner. You focus so much on your breathing and cadence that you lose track of your sense of direction during a race, so don’t be afraid to ask!

    Okay, so the race was pretty successful overall you think. Yes, mostly. One complaint I had was the shuttling system to the start line. Unlike most point-to-point races where you meet at finish line and get shuttled to start lines., runners have to park elsewhere to get onto the shuttle. Which itself was not a problem. The problem was that the bus driver was confused where to drop the runners off. Partially, I blamed one of the runners was confusing the bus drivers when he saw someone waving the bus to go left when the bus driver went straight through the intersection. We ended up making U-turns and circling around to figure out where we should have gone. I wondered if the bus driver didn’t get distracted, would he be able to figure out where to drop us off?! In anycase, the ball field which we were to start at was in the middle of a giant block. It was fenced out by neighboring apartment complex with no way to get in. The start line address on the website brought runners who used Uber to an Academy, only to found out the gates were locked. They seriously need to have better description of how to get to the start lines. And there were no road signs for folks to know where to enter the ball field and locations for drop-off. It’s a mess! That itself worths some rating deduction. Beside the start line chaos the race went fairly smoothly. Shuttle back to parking area could have been closer to finish line in my opinion. After all, you have bunch of limping athletes trying to exit the venues walking to the Sport Basement parking lot. And at that point, the race was over, people were getting cold and the pain finally kicked in after the adrenaline had dissipated.

    As for the 50-miler swag, you get a T-shirt, a finisher medal, a finisher water bottle and a baseball cap (that they forget to give out during pre-race packet pickup, meaning you have to ask for it.) For a major event like North Face Endurance Challenge Championship race, you would have expected better items, but the design of the T-shirt was mediocre. The finisher medal was generic, the only difference among the different distances was the lanyard. To me, that’s a disappointment.

    Overall, the race was fun thanks to the weather and gorgeous view. I enjoyed especially the last 3 miles of the race as my adrenaline finally kicked in when I got onto Gold Gate. My competitive instinct came back, and my knee pain was gone for the moment. I was like a kid again dodging between tourists and passing all the runners who passed me when I was limping through the course. I must have passed 10-20 runners along the way, and I got some of my fastest split in the last 3 miles. It was a rush of excitement to be able to see the end of the tunnel for the race. What an exhilarating feeling to be able to finish strong after an ultramarathon. I think that’s why I enjoy ultramarathon so much. It maybe slow in the progress, but you have so much energy left that you can have a victorious entry at the finish line, and all the pain and suffering faded away for the moment as you enjoy your new accomplishment (conquering an ultramarathon).

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    3

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    Duma FIRST-TIMER '15

    As other reviewers have stated- this race is top-notch! It's challenging, but not defeating, and has beautiful scenery (ocean, beaches, eucalyptus groves) that saves you from the reality of what … MORE

    As other reviewers have stated- this race is top-notch! It’s challenging, but not defeating, and has beautiful scenery (ocean, beaches, eucalyptus groves) that saves you from the reality of what you are doing. We shuttled from San Francisco to the start with no problem and were able to stay warm in a North Face dome tent that had been set up for results (BTW- don’t underestimate the warming power of the tablecloths). You easily get lost in the scenery and the continual up and down of the course. If you are looking for a flat race, this is NOT your race. At the aid stations there are lots of options for snacks and those who don’t mind bubbles while they are running can “Do the Dew”. I highly recommend looking at the race profile before the race so you know how many more hills you have until the finish and won’t be surprised by the last little climb to the finish. The only issue we had was with the shuttles at the end. We had to wait around 45 minutes to catch a shuttle to where we needed to go. I guess the “endurance” and “challenge” applied to more than just the run…

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    cenevoldsen FIRST-TIMER '15

    I signed up for the North Face race based on Mike Sohaskey's review (he is the founder of this site after all, so he must know what he's talking about). … MORE

    I signed up for the North Face race based on Mike Sohaskey’s review (he is the founder of this site after all, so he must know what he’s talking about). The race also marked the beginning of my running season, so I was pumped to get going. Never mind the Christmas party the night before.

    Whatever fog I had left in my head disappeared instantly, the moment I stepped out of the shuttle bus in the heart of the Marin Headlands surrounded by hundreds of like minded runners. Must say right off the bat that North Face puts on a great production. Everything went really smooth from shuttle ride to check in to bag check. Great festival with free massages, treats and drinks. Lots of porta potties on hand too. The gun went at 9am for the 10K right when it started to drizzle. As we went up the Bobcat fire road, we were engulfed by a thick fog. Loved it! The 10k is basically 3 miles up and 3 miles down, all on fire road, plus the finishing stretch on asphalt. It was scenic for sure (although nothing beats Woodside in my book). Despite my poor preparation the night before, I ended up in third place in my age group. I’ll take it! I definitely recommend North Face. Worth it for the scenery, challenge and the high production value.

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    M_Sohaskey REPEAT RUNNER '13

    OVERALL: Unless you’re allergic to dirt or ocean breezes, I’d strongly recommend The North Face Endurance Challenge (the Bay Area edition is their Championship race). If you’re looking for a … MORE

    OVERALL: Unless you’re allergic to dirt or ocean breezes, I’d strongly recommend The North Face Endurance Challenge (the Bay Area edition is their Championship race). If you’re looking for a memorable way to round out the year’s race schedule, this is it. The course is stunningly scenic, the weather’s been beautiful all three years I’ve run it, and Ultramarathon Man mojo (in the form of North Face athlete Dean Karnazes) hangs in the air. What’s not to like?

    Now let’s talk details…

    The Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is an awesome playground for runners. Thanks in large part to the GGNRA’s 117 square miles, the Bay Area deserves its reputation as one of the country’s trail-running meccas. I’d run the half marathon distance for this race twice before and decided this time around to step up to the marathon distance (50-mile and 50K options were available as well, but sold out more quickly).

    WEATHER: Despite near-freezing rain the day before, Saturday (race day) dawned on a brave new running world. Bright blue skies, near-windless conditions and temperatures in the low 40s coalesced into a dazzling morning. Maybe, like the rest of us, the running gods wanted to see trail-running phenoms like Rob Krar, Emelie Forsberg and Max King tackle the technically demanding 50-mile course in ideal conditions. Whatever the reason, the crisp clean air that greeted runners in the grassy, sun-dappled staging area at Fort Berry confirmed that today would be a very good day for a run.

    As a bonus adrenaline boost, Dean Karnazes was waiting at the start line to encourage and send off the marathoners.

    COURSE DIFFICULTY/SCENERY: After an initial ¾-mile descent on asphalt to awaken legs and lungs, the course crosses Bunker Road and left-turns onto the forgiving and well-groomed dirt trails that lay stretched out ahead, like a rock-strewn orange carpet, for most of the next 25.5 miles. A quick right turn leads on to the popular Miwok Trail, where our eager caravan faced its first physical and psychological test, an ascent of 600 vertical feet over 1-1/4 miles.

    The marathon course comprises six major hills, including two climbs each up the Miwok Trail and Marincello Trail as well as separate climbs up distinct sections of the Coastal Trail. Together these six major hills account for most of the course’s 4,757ft of elevation gain, and break down as follows:
    1) Miwok, mile 1
    2) Marincello, mile 3.7 (followed by Alta, mile 5.8)
    3) Miwok, mile 9
    4) Coastal (part I), mile 12.6
    5) Coastal (part II), mile 16.4
    6) Marincello, mile 20.3 (followed by Alta, mile 22.4)

    Near its summit, the Marincello Trail opens out onto panoramic views of Marin City, which like a newly painted small-scale model lies neatly laid-out below at the foot of Richardson Bay.

    The second half of the marathon is equally demanding but even more scenic. The Coastal Trail runs along the western edge of the continent overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with unspoiled coastline and the crash of pounding waves to distract from the hangover of another tough climb. For me the second climb up the Coastal Trail from Muir Beach was the most ughhhhh ascent of the day – 970 vertical feet in just under two miles – and required my first bit of power-hiking to reach the crest of the trail and the zenith of the course, at 999 feet above sea level.

    The final descent of the day down the Rodeo Valley Trail offers glimpses of iconic S.F. landmarks Sutro Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge, both peeking over the hilltops to your left. From there it’s a short transition back on to asphalt, followed by a brief ascent up Bunker Road and back to Fort Barry to finish under the familiar red start/finish arch.

    While the rest of us were enjoying the epic views, overall 50-mile winner Rob Krar and women’s winner Michele Yates were each earning $10,000 for their efforts. Talk about a runner’s high!

    PRODUCTION/SWAG: The North Face organizers do a great job of staging a race they’re obviously proud of. During race bib pickup at the SF store, I had animated conversations about the race with two employees, one of whom would be running it as his first 50-miler. On race day the course was well marked, and strategically positioned aid stations were well stocked and manned by terrific volunteers who, despite having to stand out in the cold, were unfailingly supportive.

    Other than the venue, one of the main reasons to recommend this race is the always impressive swag. This year’s goodies included a tastefully designed finisher’s medal, a pair of SmartWool socks and a nice royal blue TNF tech t-shirt, with the TNFECC insignia on the sleeve plus the option of having your race distance and “California Championship” screen printed on the front. And the virtual goody bag included a gem I’ve never seen before – a free magazine subscription from Rodale that allowed you to opt for a $20 refund rather than the free subscription. All this, and a $95 registration fee (not including a $5.75 processing fee from RaceIt)… so even without the sweet offer from Rodale, the marathon is reasonably priced for a high-profile trail race.

    As the third-place finisher in my age group, I earned additional swag in the form of a nice pair of TNF arm warmers, assorted CLIF products, a Road ID coupon and – check your excitement – a SmartWool product brochure and stickers. Luckily we’d be celebrating my nephew’s sixth birthday later that day, so thanks to SmartWool I now had a present to give him.

    The post-race buffet offered a selection of very decent options for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, as half the grassy field of the finish line festival enjoyed the warmth of full sunlight while the other half found itself trapped in bitterly cold shade.

    My only (minor) grievance would be the 50-question post-race survey sent out by the folks at TNF. Unfortunately I didn’t realize its scope until I was already committed (I’m sure that’s their intent), and though I did complete it, I was definitely losing patience by the midway point.

    For an even more verbose synopsis, check out my race report at http://blisterscrampsheaves.com/2013/12/21/the-north-face-endurance-challenge-championship-marathon-race-report/

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    My Report
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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