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Brutal and Beautiful Trail Fun: The MoMoFo100K

a Brutal and beautiful trail race.

I had the pleasure of taking on my first 100k at the inaugural MoMoFo100K. The MoMoFo, drawing its name after the Morgan Monroe State Forest. The “MoMoFo,” is a hidden gem of lush greenery and technical backcountry trails nestled in the beautiful and unforgivingly rugged southern Indiana forest, proving there is more than corn in Indiana. The MoMoFo is the brainchild of Benny Hickock, a race director and steward of the Indiana trail running community. Right away, I could tell the motivation behind directing this race was more about sharing his favorite trails with friends than any monetary gain that could be drawn from race directing. Benny encompasses everything I love about the trail-running community. He’s a race director with a passion for trail running that is unmatched by most. I am curious to know how Benny does it; in the 18 hrs. or so I was slogging around the MoMoFo course, I swear he was everywhere, always with a smile and the same level of stoke, ready to give you the signature Benny hype. “Whoohoo” came bellowing from Benny and supporting crew; I swear I heard that all night echoing in the single-track havens and hollows of the Morgan Monroe Forest and for me it was an exclamation that kept me on my feet all night. The MoMoFo has a piece of my heart now and will forever; you can count on the fact that this event will be a yearly tradition for me. This would be both brutal and beautiful.

Bottomless Pain Cave and the Gorton’s Fisherman

The MoMoFo was a 100k trail race broken down into three 20-ish mile loops, clocking in at 8,300 of total vertical climb, kind of a tall order for someone from the flatlands of central Indiana. The first few hours went well, but with a 7 pm start time, it soon grew dark, which, in hindsight, I should have prepared for better. This nuance of the race would make for a challenging event, adding further to MoMoFo’s welcoming but brutal vibe. Somewhere around 20 miles or so, the wheels came off for me. The nonstop climbing, running with a headlamp, and sleep deprivation finally took its toll on me; what was once a nice, steady groove slowly morphed into an arduous death march to the finish. The struggle only got more real when I started getting sleepy, and my quads began to blow up from the unrelenting climbing and technical single tracks. The following 40 miles were an absolute battle for me physically and mentally; at one point, my mind started playing tricks on me. I could have sworn I saw the Gorton’s fisherman hugging an oak tree around mile forty while making my way through the backcountry section of the trail. It was the first time I had ever entertained having the word quit in my mind, but I pushed through the night and found a decent groove until the sun rose. I found a resurgence of energy the following afternoon and wound up sharing a lot of miles with a pretty rad new trail friend named Danny. I was even able to put together a shuffle for the last 100 yards or so to the finish line, where I was greeted by an energetic crew and race director Benny Hickock, where I was met and congratulated with the signature Benny hug.


Resilience: A Soul Lay Threadbare from the Trail

The MoMoFo was a distance PR for me. Still, more importantly, it was a time when I experienced the most personal growth I have ever had on the trial; this race broke me down; it stripped away all the bullshit that resides on the surface and left me with nothing but time for soul searching. It exposed my “WHY.” I realized that I could keep moving no matter how much things hurt or how bad I wanted to sit down and quit. The pain cave is a place to settle into and discover what drives you. I am a fighter. It’s what I do; I didn’t fight my way through learning disabilities as a kid, addiction, feelings of imposter syndrome, crippling social anxiety, mental health struggles, and all the adversities I have faced in life to lay down and quit now. I had to take the word quit off the table and tap into why I was doing ultramarathons. That reason is to prove that no matter how hard things get or what odds are stacked against me, I know I have what it takes to keep moving forward, remain present in the moment, and run the mile I am in. Even if things don’t go the way I want them to, I can fight and prevail. The MoMoFo ignited a fire inside that continues to grow as I learn more about who I am and what makes me tick. The course was both brutal and beautiful. I now for the first time have my sights set on my first 100 miler, the IT100.

Yours from the Trail, Joe




Joe Hardin Author Run Tri Bike

Joe Hardin is a father of two, a lover of the trails, and a new ultra-distance runner. By day, he is a research and development technician; by night, he is an aspiring artist and writer. He is also an advocate for addiction recovery, inclusivity in endurance sports and a plant-based lifestyle.