Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 Mile, 55K and Relays
September 24-25, 2016; 8 AM
It's a long, rough and dusty drive to the Boundary aid station. Simply ask any of the crewmembers or volunteers that traveled the 25 miles of dirt road to get here to assist runners. However, as long as it may be the ride is worth it. This oasis sits at the 55-mile point of the Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line 100 Mile's course on the Kaibab National Forest's southern boundary with Babbitt Ranch smack dab between Arizona's highest peak, Mt Humphrey's, and the Grand Canyon National Park. Located in the middle of a long, wide, rabbit brush covered swale one can truly say that they've now visited the wild, wild west. Runners share the trail with cattle, horse, deer and antelope and can hear the distant bugling of elk. By the time they reach this point the sun has set, but the moon has taken over making even colors visible without the use of headlamps. After running across the wide-open spaces of Babbitt Ranch it is here at Boundary that competitors return to the trees and the single-track Arizona Trail for the remainder of their 100-mile journey.
After having canceled the 100-mile event in 2014 due to horrendous weather, the 2015 Stagecoach revived and went off brilliantly. We decided to keep last year's shortened 55K race in the event's repertoire. 100-mile and 55K runners started together and ran simultaneously over a 9000' shoulder of Mt. Humphrey at Aspen Corner, visited the Hart Prairie Preserve famous for its Bebb willow trees, wildlife and views of the San Francisco Peaks and through the golden aspen stands and ponderosa forests of the Coconino National Forest before descending to Cedar Ranch at 6400'. 55K runners ended their race at Cedar but the 100-mile runners continued on through ranch land and on to Boundary. From here historic locations like Moqui Stage Station and Hull Cabin and seasonal watering holes like Russell and Watson Tanks doubled as refueling points not only for the tourist-carrying stagecoaches at the turn of the 20th century but also served as aid locations for today's 100-mile contestants.
Jim Walmsley, two weeks after his 7:05 performance at the IAU 100K World Championships in the
Netherlands, set a new course record in the 55K in 4:04:33. Kelsey Gray shaved 30 minutes off
her 2014 time to win the women's 55K race in 5:51:22. Utah's Mark Hammond showed up at
Stagecoach to test his body after his 21-hour effort at the Wasatch Front 100 Mile three weeks
earlier. Uncontested, Hammond raced to the win in 17:37:25, 4 minutes faster than Michael
Versteeg's 2013 winning time. Perhaps the story of the day was Michelle Hawk's, from Tucson,
AZ, performance. She rolled to the win, placing second overall, in 19:08, almost two hours
faster than Suzanna Bon's 2013 winning time. We congratulate all 17 100-mile and 33 55K
finishers and the 10 relay teams that finished this challenging course. Make plans to be at
Stagecoach's 2016 edition set for September 24th & 25th.
|For a very good article on the impact of trail running and how it is growing, check out this issue of Running Times.|