Now…flash forward to September. After running the “12 Hours of Road America,” it was definitely the toughest event I have attempted. It turns out it was just an incredible training run for what is now the toughest event I have ever attempted—the Marji Gesick.
This thing, from the legend of the namesake (more on that later), to the “Self-Supported Ethos,” to the course markings and course design, is the real deal. It is not overhyped. It is absolutely incredible. I signed up for the 50-mile, which was actually 60.7 miles, and I turned it into 63.54 miles due to what I’ll call a “course alteration.”
First…what’s with the funny name? The “Marji Gesick”? Man-je-ki-jik was a man who came from an “important local family.” A common practice by the U.S. government opted to lend the title of “chief” to Indian men who possessed roles of leadership. It doesn’t appear he ever held a role as an official chief. His name also has been translated to Matji-gigig (Bad Day) or Man-je-ki-jik (Moving Day)…both of which would be applicable to the event as well!
Starting at the Ore Dock in Marquette just before sunrise, I covered the 63.54 miles and 7,661 feet of elevation gain over the next 13 hours and 21 minutes to finish just after sunset in downtown Ishpeming. This is primarily a cycling event. Of the 40 people registered for the “50 Mile” event along with me, only 23 started and 12 finished. Meanwhile, there were 207 biker finishers among 300 starters. Along the way and the trails, bonds were made with every cyclist I saw. We encouraged each other. We miserated together. We laughed together about the sheer ridiculousness of it all. I would hike past them as they walked their bikes up the hills, and then I’d step off the trail as they came flying past me on the flat sections and downhills. Yes, there actually were a couple downhills. Just not many.
I mentioned the “Self-Supported Ethos.” The organizers make sure you know what you are getting into. They literally say, “If you get badly hurt, call 911.” There are no official aid stations either…but there are “Trail Angels” out there and along the way I scored a grilled cheese sandwich at one of the Trail Angel Stations, the most delicious can of CocaCola I’ve ever tasted at another, and the most wonderful and refreshing WetWipe I’ve ever had applied to my face from some ladies along the trail at mile 50-ish.
My crew of Craig and Matt had it all dialed in. They’re both experienced in these crazy ideas, and they were assertive in making sure I was addressing any small issues I was having before they became big issues. They made me eat..much more than I would have on my own, and this was crucial. They saw me often at road crossings and they even hiked up the trail on occasion to see me. They kept me focused. They managed to have some fun along the way themselves. In fact, at one point I was eating a ham and cheese sandwich and noted it could use some mustard. Sure enough, the next time I saw them they had mustard. What service! We had a plan and we adapted as needed, and we finished. I found out I was capable of more than I thought I was…but it took help and people to bring it out. I look forward to going back in 2022 and helping Matt and Craig as they take on the 100-miler.
Thanks to Jason and Cheri Schneider as well. They were quite familiar with this event, and they were there to help Matt and Craig with logistics and road intersections, and they’re also responsible for planting the seed of this event in my world about four years ago.
The Marji Gesick is an amazing weekend and like nothing I’ve ever done before. You—yes you—can do so much more than you think you can. Find your limits. And seek like-minded people to help you out along the way!