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Living History Farms hosts largest off-road race in North America

11/14/2012

An ornery crowd goes wild at a past Living History Farms Race.

“I guess I’m going for the Iron Farmer,” said Joe Short, who recently finished his first off-road duathlon after several years of knee pain and eventual surgery.                

With new cartilage in his knee, Short will join 7,500 others in the 34th Annual Living History Farms Race on Saturday morning. Hundreds of others will bike the same course later in the afternoon, earning each of them the moniker “Iron Farmer.”                

The Living History Farms Race, a tradition since 1980, has grown from its small cross-country run beginnings into the largest off-road race in North America.                

“I don’t really know why it became so popular,” said Steve Bobenhouse, founder of the run. “We just started it as a fundraiser for the Farm, and it just grew and grew. I guess it was one of the first mud runs, which are so popular today.”                

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Capped at a maximum of 7,500 participants, the popular race sells out in days. Bobenhouse however, keeps a few hundred entries aside for VIP treatment. For 300 people, an extra $100 donation to Living History Farms will gain them parking privileges, an up-front starting spot and a limited-edition, handmade stoneware gift created by New Harmony Pottery, which also creates the overall and age-group awards for the race.                

Though regular entry and VIP spots both fill in the weeks and days before the race, spectating can be as fun as running. The crowd heckles runners as they cross streams, climb steep, muddy embankments, bound through thick woods and slip and slide through muddy ravines.                

Parking for the event can be a challenge, however, with 7,500 runners, fans and volunteers descending upon the Urbandale open air museum at the same time. Carpooling is highly recommended, and many will park in empty lots surrounding Living History Farms and walk in. Parking directions can be found at www.fitnesssports.com.                

Once the stew and doughnuts have been eaten, the awards have been passed out and the dust settled from the morning run, it is time to pull out the bikes for Survivor Cross. Now in its second year, Survivor Cross is a mountain bike race following the same course as the morning run. Cyclists will encounter the same creeks, hills, mud and trees.                

Two races are planned. A seven-mile, one-lap, beginners race will start at 2 p.m., and a two-lap, intermediate/advanced race will begin at 3:30 p.m. Lights are recommended for the second race, as darkness will descend upon riders before the completion of the second lap.                

“This is a bike race for anybody,” said Steve Cannon, Survivor Cross race director. “It’s for people to have a shitload of fun. It’s a cyclocross race or a mountain bike race that’s different than anything else we get to do, and we can chip in a little bit of money to Living History Farms.”                

Registration for the bike race is open online at www.getmeregistered.com or in person the day of the race at the Living History Farms Visitor Center. CV

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