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Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line
100 Mile, 55K and Relays
Presented by Babbitt Ranches
September 22-23, 2018
Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 100 Mile, 55K and Relays
A Trip Through Time
By Spencer Newell – Stagecoach Volunteer

 
2017 UltraRun participant Photo by Kristin Wilson Photography

On a crisp and clear morning, with the iconic Humphreys Peak as a backdrop, runners congregated in a golden meadow adjacent to the Flagstaff Hotshots Ranch, just off the road that winds up to the Arizona Snowbowl. On this day runners would embark on tackling a few different race distances: 55k Solo, 55k Relay, 100 Mile Solo, and 100 Mile Relay. As the sun rose over the San Francisco Peaks, race director Ian Torrence and Matt Nelson, the Arizona Trail Association's Executive Director, gave their pre-race welcome, a final countdown, and then sent the runners off as they made their way to the edge of the meadow and towards the western flank of Humphreys.

2017 UltraRun participant Photo by Kristin Wilson Photography

Now in its fifth year, the Stagecoach 100 Miler and 55k traverses 13 miles of Arizona Trail singletrack, through and into a high alpine setting. This is followed by a long and rolling rumble down into the Arizona high desert, which includes a trip through the historic Babbitt Ranch, a longstanding family parcel of around 750,000 acres in size. Here, at the Cedar Ranch Aid Station, the 55k racers saw their journey end as the rest of the runners, the hearty 100 milers, turned north and began the rest of their run towards Tusayan, AZ, and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Evidence of the heritage of the land can be found in the aid-station names; Russell Tank, historic Hull Cabin, Tub Ranch, and Oil Line, to name a few.

2017 UltraRun participant Photo by Kristin Wilson Photography

The route is historic. It's the old stagecoach line, linking Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. It is also rife with animal life as runners are likely to see an elk, a pronghorn, or even a wily coyote scurry across the trail. As the 100 mile runners leave Cedar Ranch, into a vast big-sky landscape of sagebrush and juniper they are challenged with the setting sun and a drop into colder temperatures, much like they saw at the beginning of the race. By mile 50, with temperatures in the low-mid 30's by nightfall, the runners soldier on up a 25+ mile gradual singletrack ascent into the Kaibab National Forest. Upon reaching the last summit of the day at Grandview Fire Tower, the runners are greeted with roughly 20 miles of moderate descending trail all of the way to the Grand Canyon IMAX Theatre in Tusayan. The course is a terrific scenic and cultural reminder of the historic legacy that encompasses Arizona's old wild west.

2017 UltraRun participant Photo by Kristin Wilson Photography

In the men's 55k race Flagstaff locals Jim Walmsley, Cody Reed and Jared Hazen came in together to share the win in 4:16hr. Arizona's Kristina Pham took the win for the women in 5:21hr. In the 100-mile race, Las Vegas' Ron Hammett displayed patience and consistency to take the win for the men in 18:08hr. Jess Mullen, from Seattle, captured the win for the women in 22:12hr. For the 100-mile team relay, the 4-person team dubbed Team Tewanima took the overall win amongst 15 teams in a time of 14:49:56.

2017 UltraRun participant
Photo by Kristin Wilson Photography

Ian, Matt, Emily Torrence (co-race director) and the entire volunteer staff are already looking forward to the 2018 edition of Stagecoach, to be held on September 22-23. For those interested in taking the opportunity for their own journey through time in the northern Arizona landscape please keep an eye on this page. We hope to see you next year!
 
 
For a very good article on the impact of trail running and how it is growing, check out this issue of Running Times.