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Voyageur ultramarathon looking like its old self again

Training partners Jake Hegge (left) and Michael Borst run up a hill near Becks Road during last summer’s Voyageur Trail Ultramarathon. Borst won and Hegge was second, a reversal of their finishing positions in 2012. Both are back in the field for Saturday’s race. File / News Tribune

One of the nation’s oldest trail ultramarathons is returning to its roots.

Displaced the past two years by the crippling floods of 2012, the 50-mile Voyageur Trail Ultramarathon will travel along its traditional course from Carlton to the Lake Superior Zoo and back Saturday — mostly.

“Pretty close,” third-year race director Kris Glesener said Tuesday. “There are a couple little spots that we’re not quite back yet, but for the most part we’re pretty close.”

While last year’s race got back to basics and ran from Carlton High School to the zoo in West Duluth and back, the challenging layout still was a far cry from its pre-2012 days. One big omission was the iconic swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park, which had not yet been repaired after sustaining significant damage from the June 2012 flood.

The swinging bridge is back in the mix Saturday. It’s part of a course that Glesener expects to be decidedly more manageable than the climbing-heavy one that Michael Borst completed last year in     7 hours, 1 minute and     34 seconds.

An easier course this time around could put Scott Jurek’s race record in jeopardy. The distance-running superstar and Proctor native set the mark at 6:41:16 in 1998. Nobody in the event’s 33-year history — the Voyageur debuted in 1981 — has been faster.

Could the 21-year-old Borst — or training partner Jake Hegge, 22, — change that? Hegge won in 2012, when Borst was second; the duo flip-flopped positions last summer. The speedsters, whom Glesener called “a bunch of young guys,” will run Saturday.

“It’s been a rough spring, where I had a few injuries, but I’m feeling a little better now and I see no reason why I couldn’t run faster this year,” Borst said. He and Hegge both attend Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Defending women’s champ April Anselmo also returns Saturday. She won in 8:23:22 last year, when she was April Cole.

For the third straight year, the Voyageur will boast a record field of runners. As of Tuesday, 230 entrants had signed up, well ahead of the 200 that ran in 2013.

“The last five years, it’s just been going through the roof with popularity,” Glesener said.

As the Voyageur, renowned for the variety of its terrain, distances itself from the upheaval of 2012, another minor headache could arise this year. The Mudman Duluth 5K and 10K races are taking place Saturday at Spirit Mountain, and two or three of its obstacles will overlap the Voyageur course. Glesener said his runners will merely be     instructed to stay off to the side.

“It will be interesting to see what happens there,” Glesener said. “Every year there is something. Every year you think, ‘OK, we’ve solved all the problems,’ and every year, there’s something new.”

  • Saturday’s race starts at 6 a.m. at Carlton High School. The winners should return to the school between 12:30-1 p.m. Same-day registration is available; cost is $75.

Former Falls and UMD runner leads USA women to gold International Falls native and former Minnesota Duluth runner Brandy Erholtz set a course record at the North American Central American Caribbean Mountain Running Championships on Sunday in Ajijic, Mexico. Erholtz ran the 13.8-kilometer course in 1:39:01, more than three minutes faster than second-place finisher and USA teammate Maria Dalzot, who also held the old course record, which was about seven minutes slower than the time Erholtz produced Sunday.

“Since this is the only time I’m wearing USA across my chest (this year), I wanted to race well,” Erholtz told Colorado Runner Magazine. “Every time you put USA on, it elevates your performance. Everyone counts on you, so you don’t want to let anyone down.”

Erholtz, who now calls Colorado home, led the U.S. women’s team to a gold medal on the challenging Chupinaya Mountain Race course, which features about 3,800 feet of climbing and a matching descent.