The vision for the Ondessonk Trail Race event came to trail runner and Camp Ondessonk alumnus Tim Slape on a Labor Day morning in 2010. He was not at Camp for the annual Labor Day Friends Weekend, but on his home running route in St. Louis with Ondessonk on his mind. In the spirit of promoting healthy and active lifestyles, Tim thought about how he could bring his joy for trail running together with the place he and so many others loved. Tim envisioned introducing people to the beauty of Ondessonk’s natural wonders by inviting them to run its trails. Tim envisioned creating an event that would not only promote wellness in celebrating a connection with the great outdoors, but would also bring outdoor enthusiasts together to support Ondessonk’s camper scholarship fund. Out of this vision, the Ondessonk Trail Races were born.
Tim contacted Dan King, Camp Ondessonk’s executive director, who was intrigued by the idea of a trail run among Ondessonk’s sandstone bluffs, lakes, waterfalls, and tree-house cabins. Dan suggested combining the race with Camp Ondessonk’s annual Fall Festival so that runners could bring the whole family along to enjoy a weekend of community and fun in the woods. Tim contacted fellow trail runners
and friends of Ondessonk Evan Coulson, Beth Beazley, Caroline English, Kate Albrecht, and Jennifer Rheinecker, who jumped at the idea to help get the first race underway.
Tim utilized Ondessonk’s Moccasin Gap Trail as the route for the first trail race. A 10-mile historic trail used by horseback riders and hikers to explore the beauty of the surrounding Shawnee National Forest, the Moccasin Gap challenged and delighted runners. In the years that followed, a 3-mile section was added to the route to grow the race into a half marathon.
To celebrate the 5th anniversary of this trail race event, Evan Coulson designed a 50K that would take runners deep into the hills and creek-lined canyons of the surrounding Shawnee National Forest. A 5K that winds along the trails and through the cabins of Camp Ondessonk is also offered each year to bring people together to enjoy the crisp fall air and the excitement of connecting with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts actively exploring Ondessonk’s natural wonders.