The easiest thing to compare Universal Sole’s Trail Challenge races to is a stereotypical, California surfer.

They are just chill.

I had never been out to the Wolf Road Woods before, the site of November’s Trail Challenge, but had been to other parts of the Palos Forest Preserve before, so I knew I was in for a hilly morning race.

What I was not prepared for were the beautiful, autumn views along the course that seemed to change colors every half mile. Joel Feinberg and the U-Sole crew laid out a beautiful, technical, challenging course this year that was described as “about four miles” before the race started. Runners went up and down hills, through some singletrack sections, up and down more hills, through some rocky terrain, and finally, with lungs and legs begging for mercy, into the finish.

It was not a race about how fast you could run, but about enjoying the forest, making friends along the way (that you hope to outsprint at the finish), and enjoying Will Bridge’s Famous Chili after a tough but enjoyable day on the trail.

It was the kind of race a bunch of kids would put on for themselves, with a “this is the path we are taking, last one back is a rotten egg” kind of feeling which just makes the camaraderie out on the course and at the finish line that much more special.

There is one more Trail Challenge coming up this season on Dec. 10. Head over to for more info.


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