Archive for the ‘Updates & News’ Category

Trenkle wins 7th Sandhills Marathon

Posted on: June 25th, 2013 by Andy

June 11, 2013
Kearney runner Jamie Trenkle, 36, won the seventh Sandhills Marathon, run on the Brownlee Marathon south of Valentine in Cherry County. Runner-up the previous two years to Kearney native Kaci Lickteig, Trenkle became the first male runner to win the Sandhills Marathon since 2009. His time was 3 hours, 1 minute and 59 seconds on a course known for being challenging. Miguel Ordorica, 41, of Omaha finished runner-up with a time of 3:10:25. Women’s champion Jayci Zakaras, 28, of Omaha, finished eighth overall with a time of 3:28:08. Zakaras decided to switch from the Half to the Full Marathon the night before the race.
Maureen Larsen, 41, defended her championship in the Half Marathon with a time of 1:27:01. The Gretna runner edged Omaha runner Jason Zakaras, 30, who finished in 1:28:10. Cherry County native Charity Miles, 24, finished third in the Half Marathon with a time of 1:30:01. A total of 119 runners from 17 states and Nebraska ran this year’s Sandhills Marathon races. Weather conditions throughout most of the race were nearly ideal for long-distance running, according to race co-director Scott Schwartz of Lincoln. “It was cool and overcast, and the winds were relatively tame,” Schwartz said. “In fact, a nice tailwind developed as the race went on.”
Started in 2007, the Sandhills Marathon has become a popular draw for runners across the country, according to race co-director Andy Pollock, also of Lincoln. “We opened registration at Midnight on New Year’s Eve, and the races both filled by mid-afternoon January 2. That’s not bad for a race promoted solely through word of mouth and a website,” Pollock said. Race organizers plan to keep the field small. “It’s a one-lane road that’s 40 miles south of Valentine. Logistics are tricky, but the main reason to keep the race small is to preserve the uniquely remote experience.”
Pollock said he received a touching email from a runner two days following the race. “She talked about going through a rocky time with her marriage the year before. Their sixth anniversary was the weekend of the race, her sixth marathon. Her husband volunteered and helped with the race. She gave a touching account about how it brought them back together. In her email she wrote, ‘I will carry that peace I felt all Saturday morning with me for a very, very long time.’”
“It’s that we hope for, to give people a break from the busy-ness of life, a glimpse of a peace that can be found in a vast and wild land,” Pollock said.


For information contact: Andy Pollock
Lincoln, Nebraska

2011 Marathon Champions!

Posted on: June 17th, 2011 by Andy
Congratulations to our full and half marathon winners!
Pictured from left are: Jamie Trenkle, Men’s Marathon Champion, Kaci Lickteig, Overall Marathon Champion, Michael Pecha, Overall Half Marathon Champion, Haley Bidroski, Women’s Half Marathon Champion

Final Details

Posted on: June 6th, 2011 by Andy

As we’ve said, you are about to run a race that will challenger your mental and physical toughness — even more than most marathons do!  We’ll have aid stations with water and Gatorade — and gels later in the race — but the air in the Sand Hills is dry, the wind is known to blow, the sun to shine, and there ain’t a lot of shade.  Come well hydrated, drink plenty as you run and please take heed for the other following precautionsClick here for more details.
Click here to view
our photo gallery from previous races.  Nothing compares to our majestic Nebraska Sandhills!
Best of luck to all of you!

Volunteers Needed!

Posted on: June 2nd, 2011 by Andy

If you have family or friends joining you for the race, and they would like to be part of it all, we have plenty of important tasks they can help with!

There will be an important meeting for Volunteers near the beginning of the Spaghetti Feed.  Please make every effort to be there.  Let me know if you can’t.

If you’re interested in helping, please contact me ASAP at



Posted on: June 1st, 2011 by Andy

By Andy Pollock

It started several million years ago, when a natural dam burst, unleashing a torrent of waters that blasted through the cap rock of the Ash Hollow formation. Wasting no time, the waters cut a canyon like no other in Nebraska. Water from the spring that formed the massive (and now non-existent) lake composed a rippling stream that found a home in the new canyon. Centuries later the stream made a perfect habitat for trout.

The first time I saw the Snake River was 1996. I learned to fly fish there. Since then, I have caught (and released) an abundance of trout – many rainbow, a number of brown and a smattering of cut-bow. Driving from my home in Lincoln through the seemingly endless Sand Hills, I didn’t expect to find this treasure: the pine-filled canyon and the stream. When I show friends photographs taken from the bottom of the canyon and ask them where it was taken, Nebraska is not among their first five guesses. Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho. Not Nebraska.

I love the Snake River, the fishing, the prehistoric fossils scattered throughout its bed, but getting there is half the fun. If you haven’t been to the Nebraska Sand Hills, you are missing out. Satellite photos show the Sand Hills for what they are, massive dunes of sand. The dunes run northwest to southeast, blown by the prevailing winds. What you see on a closer view depends on the season. In the early summer, when we run the Sandhills Marathon, you see oceans of green. A tenuous covering of grass has planted its roots over the centuries. The valleys are a lush green; the hills a softer hue. In the fall, only a little green remains to pepper the blond grasses that sway like waves in the ceaseless Nebraska wind.

Year-round natural lakes laze prolifically throughout the valleys. In these lakes you are looking at the massive Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies the Sand Hills and eight states. The waters seep through the soft sand and form pools that provided habitat to numerous critters you wouldn’t expect to find in the middle of America.

Another source of my affinity for this land springs from my family’s roots there. My Grandpa Buck owned the Rolling Stone ranch 20 miles south of Valentine, and 20 miles north of our Marathon route, until the early 1970s. While I love to take in this country and its denizens – mule deer, pelicans, turkeys, trumpeter swans and Angus galore – I found myself succumbing to the desire to wet my fly. And this weakness led to a search for a shortcut and another discovery, the Brownlee Road.

The Brownlee Road – or the Brownlee Cutoff, as it is known to locals – is a one-lane black-top that winds up the Wamaduze Valley. I remember my first drive on it. I left Highway 83 and followed its winding course to the northwest, hoping it would take me to Highway 97, as Nebraska’s official highway map shows it does. I had my doubts. It is a narrow road that looks as though, at any moment, it might come to an abrupt end. Along the road, and amid those doubts, I took in scenery second to none: mountainous sand hills; yawning valleys, a bend of the North Loup River, the tiny village of Brownlee (population: about 8, the sign says), and numerous wildlife. The map proved true, and the road deposited me onto Highway 97. I traveled it past Merritt Reservoir to my fishing site along the Snake.

Several times I took the Road – for the time it saved and the views it afforded – and during one of the trips, the runner in me spoke: ‘this would be a great place for a long run.’

I shared that thought with a fellow runner and fisherman, Scott Schwartz on a later trip up the Road. Scott agreed with my observations. The next trip that Scott took with me, we asked Steve Mossman – another fisherman friend, to whom my spouse refers as my ‘fishing wife’ — to reset his odometer when we left Highway 83. We wanted to see just how long the road was. Reaching Highway 97, we looked again at Steve’s odometer. It read 25.7 miles. We looked at one another. All marathoners will know what was going through our minds.

At that moment, Scott and I decided the road must be run. Half a mile must be tacked on. Add it to one end, running a ways on one of the highways? Cleve Trimble, the retired surgeon, on whose ranch we fish, supplied the solution: run into Brownlee and back. The course was set.

Logistics immediately became the next concern. It would be no fun to park two cars at either end, and wave to one another as we passed near the mid-point. We’d get a group of friends, maybe six or eight, together and run each way. Somehow — I can’t really tell you how — people started to hear about our plan, and we quickly realized we would have to be at least semi-formal about the run.

The name went from the Brownlee Road Marathon to the Sandhills Marathon; more people would relate. We measured the course. Water stations were plotted out. Volunteers were summoned. The purists in us gave way to a plea by several to run a half-marathon. We’d originally planned to run from Highway 97 to Highway 83, but one runner, Parker Schenken prevailed upon us to run from east to west. Crossing from Central Time into Mountain Time would shave an hour off everyone’s time, ensuring a World Record and PRs for all. On Saturday June 9, 2007, the first Sandhills Marathon was run.

Twenty-eight were registered. Twenty-seven started. Twenty-four finished. Sixteen full marathoners and eight half. (For more details on the races, see The Finishers’ Page [hyperlink].) As those pioneer marathoners will tell you, this course is not for the faint of heart. Cattle outnumber spectators by an inestimable ratio. Elsewhere in this site, you can find an eloquent account of how these cattle sometimes like to run with the runners, written by former Champion Brian Wandzilak. Trees, and their attendant shade, are as sparse as the spectators. The air is dry. The wind blows freely. The sun shines bright. While there are only two sizeable hills on the full marathon route, this marathon is decidedly difficult. The power of the runner’s will is challenged by all the fierceness of this wild land. The reward of any marathon is great, and the Sandhills ranks among the most satisfying. We offer the world’s best Finisher’s Prize, bar none – a Silver Spur engraved with Sandhills Marathon and the year. The Finish Area is a mix of runners in their funny shorts and running shoes, coupled with local ranchers decked out in their work suits of wide-brimmed hats, button down shirts, blue jeans and cowboy boots.

A word on the local supporters. Their enthusiasm and support for our event has been outstanding. Rancher John Lee volunteers his pasture for the Finish Area. Jason Taylor, who works at the Blackford Ranch, and his growing family are our greatest local ambassadors. Young’s Western Wear has supplied our Finisher’s Prizes each year. Marsha Bauer and her crew at Valentine’s Niobrara River Lodge have been gracious hosts since the Marathon began. The Cherry County Board has offered its support and assistance, and Bill Sokol & Co. have kept our runners safe and our minds at ease by tagging along behind the pack in their Ambulance. That’s a long, slow trip in a vehicle!

We weren’t without our skeptics. The first year, we called each rancher along the route. We met with everything from enthusiasm to admonition. One rancher warned us that if he saw anyone cross the right-of-way fence into his pasture …“well, we have a way of handling things out here.” That rancher was among the crowd of spectators who greeted our runners at the Finish the first year. He wore a smile and was shaking his head at the crazy event we had brought to his land. His hospitality and guardedness were both welcome. It taught us a lesson in how much these people cherish their land. It is their lifeblood. Each year, we take two trips up and down the road after the event, picking up any litter our runners have left. And each year we pick up more beer cans tossed by passing fisherman than we do Gatorade bottles. We leave the road better than we find it, out of respect to the people and the land.

To conclude this history of the course, I’ll point out that in Year Two (2008) we reversed the course for two reasons: first, it is slightly uphill from east to west (despite what Mr. Wandzilak might say!); and second, the prevailing winds blow from the NNW that time of year. The route has been adjusted only slightly since. We start a little farther from Highway 97 where there is room for safe parking. And we run through Brownlee and don’t turn around until the runners have crossed the North Loup. It continues to be a beautiful, arduous run. The course has been altered since Sandhills No. 1, but the views have remained unchanged …for the last several million years.

Course Description

Posted on: May 26th, 2011 by Andy

The Sandhills Marathon begins near the west end of the Brownlee Road, where it meets Highway 97, between Mullen and Valentine. The Road, a onelane blacktop, winds southeast through the Wamaduze Valley until it reaches the town of Brownlee (unincorporated), then runs east along the north bank of the North Loup River. The course finishes on Highway 83, between Thedford and Valentine.*

The Half Marathon will begin at the half-way point about the time the full marathoners are reaching that point. The courses are mainly flat with the road traveling through valleys between rolling Sandhills on either side. There are a few hills, but only a couple that are substantial.*

Limited transportation will be provided to and from the course.

*Course direction for both races subject to reversal depending on weather conditions.



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