Runners Lead at Weldon Springs

The Illinois Trail Corps hitch at Weldon Springs State Park is a go— Americorps NCCC service members are the heart of Illinois Trail Corps, and last week we learned that Americorps will be sending us a team for the fall hitch, September 13–November 1.

(You saw this coming:) Donate or volunteer to support Illinois Trail Corps! 

Yesterday, Americorps NCCC's Jeff Moeur came out from NCCC's Iowa campus to Clinton, Illinois to review the team's living arrangements and see the work sites at the park. Jeff's the tall cool one in the photo; also joining us were IDNR site superintendent Charlie Montgomery (left) and Weldon Springs Foundation president Mary Mitchell (middle), who are both Illinois Trail Corps partners.

Jeff's job right now is driving around and reviewing all the sponsor sites in the Midwest for the fall hitch, and he mentioned that he'd be on his way to Chicago next.

I said any other day I'd be heading the same way, but instead I'd be heading north to Bureau County for some Hennepin Hundred course tweaks. And Jeff said, "Oh, I'm running that."

I said "Seriously? Fifty or 100?"

"The fifty," said Jeff. He registered last week!

It gets even better. Site superintendent Charlie jumps on that like a dog on a pork chop. It turns out that Charlie took up running as an adult and discovered a latent talent for it that quickly placed him among Illinois' elite amateur racers. He enrolled in Eastern Illinois University at 30 years old, and the school offered him a spot on their cross country team. Charlie could post sub- 4:20 mile times and ran a 2:32 which he never took a drink. ("I never drank fluids when I trained, and I was training 120 to 150 miles a week. I'd probably gone faster, and felt a lot better, if I'd been smart enough to drink.")

He ran a 50 mile race once, winning with a sub-6 hour time (Jeff said, "Yeah that's not me" LOL), and the only 100 he ever ran he finished in just over 23 hours—stopping to eat or sleep every 10 miles, which he ran at a 7:35/mile pace. He can count All-Americans and former Olympic team members as training partners, and once raced shoulder-to-shoulder with a 50-year old Bill Rodgers (for the first half-mile, says Charlie, "before he left me").

Charlie was an age-group terror into his early 50s when a work accident damaged his knee and ended his running. He's well above his 165-lb. race weight of four years ago, but the motor is still there. It has to be; that's the only way an Illinois State Park with shoe string resources and a skeleton crew stays open at all.

Jeff and I listened delightedly for almost an hour about Charlie's exploits as all this passion for running hard just poured out of him. Running hard, working hard, he just doesn't see another way to do either.

We're going to have a great hitch at Weldon Springs.

Trailhead to the long-closed Beaver Trail at Weldon Springs State Park. Can't see a trail? EXACTLY. Can't wait to show you this trailhead in about 10 weeks!