Embraced by the Lakota Sioux, the turtle symbolizes the virtues of patience, loyalty, determination and steadfastness - and for the runners participating in the upcoming Maah Daah Hey Trail run on July 28, those virtues will be a prerequisite.
The trail run, hosted by LAND and Save the MDH, offers something for runners of all levels from novice first-timers to the seasoned ultra-runners with races of varying lengths beginning at 3.1 to 106 miles.
The Maah Daah Hey trail emblazons turtle shells on each of the 1,440 posts that mark the trail, guiding people from the trailhead 4 miles south of Watford City to the trailhead 10 miles south of Belfield along the course.
"Approximately every 25 miles there will be an oasis with peppy volunteers ready to help runners with food, liquids and anything else they might need." said Lindsey Ybarra, co-founder of LAND and Save the MDH non-profit. "Shaded tents, chairs, port-a-potties and ice cold water are just some of the things runners will see along the course."
The Maah Daah Hey trail system is renowned for showcasing some of the country's most distinctive and spectacular terrain where participants in the upcoming races can enjoy the grandiose plateaus, toothed peaks and valleys, large spreads of rolling prairie and rivers which intertwine the trail.
"The trail is in the best shape it's been in years, and while I won't be running this year I'll probably put in a marathon by the end of the day," Ybarra laughed. "The earth is a unique blend of dirt, clay and sandstone along a single track trail offering a challenge for runners."
All runners are required to check in at the packet pick-up the night prior to the race on July 27, where safety briefs and race information will be provided by some of the more than 50 volunteers who will work the first aid stations, oases and as trail supervisors.
"We have runners and volunteers from all over the nation," Ybarra touted. "In the future we'd like to see it become as big as our bike race that takes place in August, which reaches upwards of 600 people."
Every participant will receive a finisher's patch upon crossing the finish line in their respective races. Ultra-runners, those running over 100 miles, will receive a belt buckle as is tradition in races of that length according to Ybarra. Individual awards will also be given to the top 3 men's and women's finishers in each category.
The Maah Daah Hey Trail isn't just an events-only destination, like many of the other famed races.
Hikers, bikers or horseback riders can freely come to the trail throughout the year and enjoy the scenery and great outdoors. To promote the trail, the Maah Daah Hey Trail association will be awarding patches for the completion of the trail, in part or in its entirety, throughout the year.
"The trail isn't just for big races, although they are great," said Curtis Glasoe, president of the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association. "Anyone can come to Maah Daah and enjoy it. We're even promoting the trail by giving people, who complete segments of the trail, a badge."
Badges can be earned for completing 25, 50, 100, and 150 mile segments of the course and are awarded by the MDH trail association.
"We encourage people to partake in the challenge and post their pictures and share their stories on our Facebook page, or send them to the MDHTA so they can be posted to the MDHTA website," Glasoe said.
Registration for the upcoming race ends on July 20, with runners registering before midnight on July 17 receiving race t-shirts.
Maps of the trail can be purchased at the U.S. Forest Service offices in Dickinson and Watford City, or ordered from the MDHTA website. Runners can get more information at www.experienceland.org/maah-daah-hey-trail-run.