Three degrees, three days and nine races

An+animoosh+skijor+racer+and+his+husky+from+the+2018+event+race+through+the+snow.+The+Noquemanon+Ski+Marathon+is+composed+of+nine+races+and+is+one+of+the+top-three+largest+ski+%0Amarathons+in+the+nation.+The+event+typically+attracts+over+1%2C500+cross+country+skiers.+%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Andy+Gregg.

An animoosh skijor racer and his husky from the 2018 event race through the snow. The Noquemanon Ski Marathon is composed of nine races and is one of the top-three largest ski marathons in the nation. The event typically attracts over 1,500 cross country skiers. Photo courtesy of Andy Gregg.

Isabelle Tavares

The 21st annual Noquemanon Ski Marathon races through cold temperatures

The only negative thing about the ski marathon this weekend was the temperature. Cold winds whipped across the masked faces of skiers and crept in the tracks created by freshly sharpened skis. With an overall high temperature of 3 degrees, racers at the 21st annual Noquemanon Ski Marathon found an additional challenge to the already-technical trail.

A total of nine races kept the audience entertained from the 50K marathon, relay and classic touring to snowbiking, a 15K snowshoe race, a junior Noque race and animoosh skijor, where a skier is pulled by a running dog. The total distance, 1,643 feet, that skiers covered was enough to hike up and halfway down Hogsback Mountain.

This year’s 50K race winner and 2014 Olympian Brian Gregg said skiing the Noque has been on his list for quite some time and he was impressed with the race and number of volunteers.

“I’m all hardened up after this weekend,” he said with a laugh. “I was certainly cold but I just did a race in Minneapolis a week before and it actually felt warmer at the Noque.”

Gregg said he enjoys the U.P. and has a lot of great friends here, adding, he also trained at the U.S. Olympic site at NMU with the college team for three weeks.

“The track groomers and volunteers did a fantastic job, everything was in really good shape,” Gregg said.

Cold temperatures allowed for the trail to set firmly, Gregg said, adding, the trail had perfect “corduroy.” The race commenced in Ishpeming, crossed Dead River, bypassed the Mead Hills and opened up to an expansive view of Lake Superior and the Superior Dome.

“There was one section where you’re up high and can see the lake, it was really nice and aesthetic,” Gregg said. “There was a lot of private land that the trail crossed, so it’s really a testament to the community.”

This annual event usually attracts over 1,500 cross country skiers and it’s one of the top-three largest ski marathons in the nation, Noquemanon Ski Marathon Director Jason Rolling, director of the Noquemanon Ski Marathon said. Funds raised from the marathon go towards the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN), which is a non-profit organization that builds and maintains trails for hiking, biking, running, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

With the large amount of skiers in turn, the race benefits hotels and businesses from the influx of visitors eager to experience what Marquette has to offer. Rolling said this race would not happen without participation from other businesses and people in the community.

“It takes an entire village,” Rolling said. “There is a lot of community support and we are so thankful for that.”

NMU athletic training and nursing students also aid in the production of the event, Rolling said, and he commented that their help has been instrumental.

Gregg has skied since childhood and enjoys being outside in the winter months, which drew him to his passion of cross country skiing.

“The Noquemanon is a chance to swap stories,” Gregg said. “During the ski, everyone separates and goes to their own path in the woods, but afterwards we talk about the challenging parts and ask how the race went for the other person.”

Although 2019 was the first time Gregg raced in the Noque, his wife won the marathon in 2018. They are expecting their first baby within this week, but hope to race together next year.

“I love that natural high you get from putting in the effort,” Gregg said. “Huge thanks to the Marquette community and the U.P.”