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Ironstone runners tackle 100k marathon

Over 60 runners attempted to conquer more than 60 miles of forest trail and mountainside through Blair and Huntingdon counties within a 23-hour window over the weekend.

The Ironstone Ultramarathon, encompassing a distance of 100 kilometers, started out Saturday afternoon from Canoe Creek State Park and concluded at Greenwood Furnace State Park, linking two of the region’s historic iron furnace operations.

The course utilized sections of the Standing Stone, Midstate and Lower trails; every six to eight miles, runners could stop to refuel and refresh at one of the marathon’s aid stations.

Janice Hartkorn, captain at aid station No. 4 which was located at the Alexandria end of the Lower Trail, said ultra running requires a dash of “crazy and stupid” but are ultimately very determined individuals.

Hartkorn said the trail-running culture is big-hearted, a sphere where looking out for one another is more important than winning.

“These runners are very humble, very kind and very gracious,” Hartkorn said. “They really help each other out.”

As John Zavatchan of Connellsville reached the aid station he was cheered on by his wife Kristie and their 11-year-old daughter, Abby, who held up an encouraging sign, then greeted him with a big hug.

Kristie said the whole family runs, even Abby whose longest distance so far is 10 miles.

“I just love being out in the woods,” she said, adding she prefers trails to athletic tracks.

When Jessica Weinman reached aid station No. 4 where she was met by her daughter, Brooke, a one-woman pit crew who was ready with a fresh pair of sneakers and water. The Weinmans are from Allegheny, New York, near the New York State and Pennsylvania border.

“We’re a motocross family,” Jennifer said, adding the years of dirt bike racing helped prepare them for the support needed to run a tough race.

Brooke was a hurdler and cross country runner in high school. Inspired by her daughter, Jennifer took up running about five years ago with Brooke’s encouragement. The family lives along a snowmobile trail, which was Weinman’s first course to conquer as a runner.

Runners from 13 states showed up on the starting line at Canoe Creek. The course beyond station No. 4 —up and down Huntingdon County’s ridges in a muggy mix of heat and humidity — was expected to be brutal, Hartkorn said.

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