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Four members of St. Clair Running Club tackle 100K race in Pinckney

Photo courtesy of Nate McDonell - The starting line for Run Woodstock 2019.

Two finish ‘Run Woodstock’; McDonell wins age group

By Jim Bloch

“You can make it if you try,” sang Sly and the Family Stone at the real Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969.

A half-century later, those words remained good advice to the participants in Run Woodstock 2019, held Sept. 7-9 in Pinckney, MI.

Photo courtesy of Nate McDonell – The campground in Pinckney.

The event featured laid-back runs, hippie hikes, music, yoga and — in the words of its website –other forms of “nonsense.”

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The races included the Feelin’ Groovy 5K and 5 Mile on Saturday night, which runners could choose to run naked.

Other races had equally hip names, but were not so mellow: Hippie Half, Mellow Marathon, Freak 50K, Peace Love & 50 Miles, Happening 100K and the Hallucination 100 Mile.

The event took place at the Hell Creek Ranch.

Four runners from the St. Clair Running Club ran the Happening 100K. For the metric challenged, that’s slightly over 62 miles. Only two happened to finish.

Nate McDonell, of St. Clair Township, finished first in the 40-44 age group and sixth overall, with a time of 13 hours, 21 minutes and 28 seconds. St. Clair resident Marvin Schmitz, who manages the running club, finished third in the 30-34 age bracket and eighth overall, running a 15:12:01.

Michelle Magagna, of Portage, racing in the 25-29 age bracket, topped all runners with a 9:59:19.

Fifty-one runners finished the race; 32 dropped out.

SCRC members Kurt Brinker, 35-39, and Bob Hill, 45-49, started the race but did not finish. Brinker dropped out around the halfway mark with a foot injury that initially occurred two weeks before the event and Hill tore his calf muscle around the 11-mile mark, said McDonell.

The 100K consisted of four laps around 16-mile loop in rolling terrain, over about four miles of dirt roads, a couple miles of rails-to-trails and about 10 miles of single and double track trails through the woods.

It was the longest race McDonell had ever attempted. He had run two standard marathons, 26.2 miles in the last four years. About five years ago, he ran 45 miles.

“It was really cool,” said McDonell. “I met people from all over, Atlanta, Wisconsin, Colorado, Canada. I went slow on the first loop and felt really good.”

The 100 K began at 4 p.m. McDonell finished at 5:20 a.m.

“I felt good on the second loop,” he said. “I began the third loop about 9:30 p.m. and saw a bunch of people from the running club and talked to them. I felt awesome for the first half of the loop and pretty good throughout it. It was such a festival atmosphere, running right through the campground.”

People dressed in tie-dyed shirts and painted flowers on their vans.

“It was quite a party,” said McDonell.

The fourth loop was a different story.

Photo courtesy of Nate McDonell – Nate McDonell takes a night selfie during the third 16-mile loop of the 62 mile race in Pinckney; he finished sixth overall.

“Then it got tough,” McDonell said. “It seemed like the hills grew in size and there were no flat areas anywhere. I’d walk all the uphills and downhills and some of the flats.”

Around 2 a.m., McDonell started seeing people “zombie walking” through the woods.

“I had to help out a couple people,” he said. One guy veered off on the wrong trail. Another was running in the middle of the road with a car heading right at him.

Ultramarathon runners have frequently reported hallucinating during their races.

McDonell did not hallucinate. His mind remained sharp even as his body took a beating on the fourth lap.

“The volunteers were really great,” McDonell said. “The aid stations were awesome.”

Two hours after he had finished, he fell asleep in his tent. The UK Mods, a British invasion tribute band, playing the Rolling Stones, rousted him two hours later at 9:30 a.m.

It was one of a number of bands that played throughout the weekend, which included more than 200 people at a time doing yoga.

Back at a home Saturday night, McDonell slept 13 hours.

“The chafing was the worst of it,” he said. “Would I do it again? I think so. I’m really sore right now. But eventually, I’d like to run a 100-mile race.”

Jim Bloch is an award-winning freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. He writes about the environment, local politics, art, music, history and culture. Contact him at

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