The Winter Beast of Burden – The Easiest AND Hardest 100 in America


The Winter Beast of Burden is still on my radar. However, I wouldn’t even consider the 100-miler. It would be the 50 or nothing. For those who don’t know, the Winter Beast runs 12.5 miles out and 12.5 miles back on the Erie Canal towpath in western New York – in January. You repeat the course to get to 50 miles, and four round trips will get you to 100 miles. The course is flat as a pancake – that much is certain.

The course is so flat that on a warm January day, it is one of the fastest 100-milers around. The course record is 14:47:30 (Joseph Czabaranek). This year, with no snow in sight and warm temperatures refusing to quit, the course record could go down. With that being said, on a warm year, this is one of the easiest 100-milers around.

However, I’ve lived here long enough to know that the weather can turn on a dime. January temperatures can drop into the 20s, teens, single digits and below zero. And of course, snow can – and will – fall. In other words, the speedy towpath described above can turn into an icy, snowy, frozen mess and temperatures can turn deadly. While running 100 miles on a towpath while it’s 40 degrees isn’t so bad (it’s all relative after all), running 100 miles in snow and wind and single-digit temperatures is a nightmare. In fact, it’s such an absurd feat, regardless of clothing, gear, crew, etc. that I would argue the Winter Beast might just be the hardest 100-miler in America.


So what will it be this year? Warm? Cold? REALLY cold? Somewhere in between? I’ve been wondering the same thing lately as I consider dipping my toes into the 50…

How do you feel about running in the cold?

What is the coldest race that you have ever completed?

Do you think you could manage outside for nearly 24 hours in single-digit temperatures?

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2 Responses to The Winter Beast of Burden – The Easiest AND Hardest 100 in America

  1. Ellie says:

    I HATE running in the cold! I have fallen and injured myself too many times on ice. No thanks! I will wait for a sunny morning on clear side walks or I stick to the treadmill.
    The coldest race I ever did was called the Spring Forward Distance 15K last year in Rochester. It was a blizzard and really taxed my mental game. The food was frozen at the end 😦

  2. I don’t do cold very well. That being said, my 5k PR was in freezing rain in Ohio LOL so maybe it helps me run faster!!

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