Interview with Race Director: Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon

The Midwest is an awesome place to be if you love to run and have a good time in the process!  In researching the various types of running events I have reached out to race directors to find out what happens behind the scenes as these events come together. With the popularity of trail events on the rise I was interested to find out how they differ from road events. Race Director Eric Olson was kind enough to oblige my numerous questions about the events he manages in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon was the 458th largest marathon in the US in 2015 and 9.3% of those finishers qualified for the Boston Marathon. This gives the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon the 220th highest percentage of Boston Marathon qualifiers in the US last year! But don’t be fooled by the name, if running a marathon is not in the cards for you in 2016 there are plenty of other distance to take on to enjoy the beauty of the Gandy Dancer Trail.

Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon

  • Event(s) – Full Marathon, 4 Person Marathon Relay , Half  Marathon, & 5k run/walk
  • Date – October 15, 2016
  • Location – Luck, WI
  • Course – Trail
  • Established – 2014
  • Swag – Participant Shirt and Finishers Medal

Q:  In what year did you start running? I started running in 2002.


Q:  How did you come up with the concept of running a event along the Gandy Dancer Trail? The Gandy Dancer Trail is a retired railroad bed that runs through all of the small communities south of Lake Superior on the western edge of the state of Wisconsin. Those of us that grew up here remember trains on the railway which is now a limestone covered recreational path. We all have a connection/great memories from that. And to mention, it is very flat.

Q: How does a trail event differ from a road event? The crushed limestone, the tree canopy and the fact that there is no traffic on this trail makes a great place to hold a long-distance running event.

Q: Tell me a little about the Gandy Dancer Trail (aka what would a 1st time trail runner need to know prior to race day). There is a lot of history to this trail, it was built here before the roads were even built here. This railway transported freight from Minneapolis to Superior Wisconsin. Then it became a commuter train once the small towns were established.

Q:  What sets the Gandy Dancer Trail events apart from other running events in the Midwest? Our marathon is one of the cheapest events to participate in, in the entire Midwest. We also take pride in our soft cotton finishers shirts, nice finishers medals and Gandy Marathon Pint Glasses!

Q: As part of your event offerings you have a 4 person relay. How do you feel about the growing popularity relay events such as Ragnar?  By adding the marathon relay to our other events, has really brought the participation numbers up. We feel it is good to give people the opportunity to spend the day on the trail but not run the entire 26 miles.

Q:  Any suggestions you can provide for teams to maximize their efforts during a relay event? Possibly come here and run the trail before the Marathon weekend.

Q: Why do you feel recreational running continues to grow? Recreational running has really become a big part of many peoples lives. People seem to find peace while running and other multi-sport activities. It’s obvious this is something people can do all of their life. It’s always fun to see somebody 80 years old complete a half or full marathon.


Q:  What type of impact have you seen on the running community and/or races with the growing popularity of social media? I think social media has definitely changed the game in running. People who have the urge to start running have probably learned more about it from social media, maybe helped make their minds up to get started.

Q:  As a race director what is the one thing you think the running community would be shocked to learn that happens behind the scene of an events such the Gandy Dancer Marathon? You would be really surprised of how many people sign up for our event, then decide later that they don’t want to run in it, then ask for their money back. They just don’t have any idea the expense that race organizers face while putting on these large-scale events. Unfortunately we aren’t able to refund entry fees.


Q: What are few interesting sites along the course of the Gandy Dancer Marathon? Our  event runs through some farm land, but mainly through the deep hardwoods of western Wisconsin. It crosses a few small rivers and goes through three small communities. Our event is held right at the peak autumn colors of the year.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced getting this race off the ground?  It took a little bit of time getting our event certified as a Boston Qualifier. But for the most part, everything went smooth in our planning stages, we have hundreds of volunteers that help us put on this great event. Things are good!

Q:  Any plans to expand the event in the future and add a 50 mile option for runners? That is a possibility, we are just trying to get the events we currently offer perfected!

Q:  What type of post race events happen after the Gandy Dancer Marathon?  All of our events finish right on Luck’s Main Street. There is food vendors, taverns and lots of camaraderie going on at our finish line.

Q:  Over the past 2 years the Gandy Dancer Marathon has been around what are some of memorable events or people you have come in contact with?  In 2014 a woman from Great Britain came all the way to our little town, ran the marathon pulling a car tire behind her. She also spoke at the high school about the awareness she raises of reducing world trash.  We’ve also had several runners from across the nation that were just trying to cross our state off of their 50 states marathon bucket list.

Q: For runners coming into the Luck area for the race, what are a few things they should make sure to see/do while in the area? Luck Wisconsin, is the original founding place of the Duncan yo-yo. There is actually a museum that tells all about it. The St. Croix River is nearby along with many lakes and other recreational trails. It’s just a great place to be in the fall!

There is still time to register a time for Gandy Dancer Trail events. Head to the race website by following this link: Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon. Wisconsin is where it is at for runners in the fall don’t miss out on a great event with spectacular trail views and super cool runners!!!

#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive

Photo Credits: Gandy Dancer Marathon, Cyclova XC, & Village of Luck Wisconsin

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