Story & photos by Lonnie Hinton©
Known in the running world as the fastest and most scenic trail in the northern hemisphere, the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Johnson County will be the site for the second running of the Tunnel Hill 100 mile and 50 mile runs Saturday, Nov. 14.
The races will begin and end at the Vienna City Park. The start time will be at 8:00 a.m.
The two races, running simultaneously, will each have a 30-hour time limit.
Participants in the race will run throughout the night and into Sunday morning. Local residents should be alert and use extra caution when driving near the trail crossings, especially after dark.
Nearly 400 world-class runners from across the United States, Canada, and even Puerto Rico, will participate in this year’s event. Twenty-nine states will be represented.
Each runner will have their own support team to cheer them on.
Race director Steve Durbin of Paducah, Ky. predicts there to be anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 visitors in Johnson County for the race, each eating at local restaurants, purchasing fuel and lodging in the area, contributing to the local economy.
Durbin and Vienna Welcome Center/Foreman Depot director Phil Morris have been working together for months in preparation of this year’s race.
“I have spent many hours on the Tunnel Hill State Trail over recent years,” Durbin said. “I was fascinated by the old train trestles; the incredible scenery, including the wetlands to the south, and the gorgeous rock formations to the north. Most of all, I enjoyed the dark, cool tunnel.”
“Even though I knew that trains ran through it for years, I was still fearful of running into the wall. You see, the walls seem to close in on you as you approach the middle.”
“What a great course we have, beautiful and fast! I thought there was an excellent chance of this being the fastest 100 mile course in the country,” he added.
Hosting the event in mid November takes out the hot, humid nights.
Traci Falbo, of Charlestown, Indiana, ran the fastest 100 miles on a trail by a female at the inaugural running of the Tunnel Hill 100 mile run last year, setting a new American record. Falbo’s 14:45:26 made her the overall winner of the event, besting male winner Troy Shellhamer of Louisville, Kentucky’s 16:09. Traci is no stranger to big-time records, as she also holds the world record for 48 hours by a female.
Spectators are welcome to attend the start of the race and to watch throughout the entire event.
Tunnel Hill State Trail stretches for 45 miles from Harrisburg to Karnak. The trail continues on a trails spur for 2.5 miles from Karnak to Cache River State Natural Area – Henry Barkhausen Wetlands Center on the old Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad bed.