For the first time in the 13-year history of the Zane Grey Highline Trail 50 Mile Run, a pair of athletes tied for first place.
Nate McDowell, a 31-year-old Utah resident tied with 35-year-old Colorado native Chad Ricklefs. The two were clocked in at 8:11.44. For their tie, the two shared championship bragging rights and the $350 in prize money. Last year's Zane Grey winner, Karl Meltzer, a 35-year-old Utah resident and course record-holder, was third in 8:33.56.
According to local Zane Grey official Martin Szekeresh, at the half-way point located at FS 144 and the Highline Trail, five runners in the men's division were ahead of last year's record pace. But then, the Arizona heat slowed the progress of the ultra-marathoners.
"Last year's cool temperatures and cloud cover were replaced with bright sunshine and heat," Szekeresh said. "That took its toll and the winners failed to take the $500 (prize money) for a new course record."
Although it's called a 50-mile run, participants actually cover 51.4 miles, Szekeresh said.
In the women's division, 31-year-old Anthea Schmidt of Crested Butte, Colo. was first in 10 hours and 18 minutes.
Trailing Schmidt were Jenny Capel of Nevada (second; 10:24.2) and California resident Luanne Park (third; 10:24).
According to Szekeresh, a trio of 70-years-plus veteran runners entered the competition hoping to set age group course records.
"They had to withdraw from the race when they failed to make the 10 hour cut-off (time limit) at the (Tonto) fish hatchery aid station," Szekeresh said.
Although there were no true local runners entered, 30-year old Matt Graham of Colorado entered as a Rim country resident. For the past several months, Graham has been living and camping near the Mogollon Rim.
"He is a wilderness survival expert and instructor for Outward Bound in Utah," Szekeresh said.
Running in handmade sandals formed from a discarded automobile tire, he finished the race in 10:29.
"He lost eight to 10 minutes when he strayed off the course and ran an extra mile or so," Szekeresh said.
The race, which drew 107 entrants, began at 5 a.m., April 26, at the Pine Trailhead located a mile south of Pine. The challenging course, which followed the Highline Trail, ended at the Highway 260 Trailhead five miles east of Christopher Creek.
"The trail is very rocky with a lot of downed trees to climb over," Szekeresh said.
Five aid stations were set up along the course, where runners received sport drinks and snacks to help them battle heat stress and dehydration.
The race was sponsored by Bashas', Cucina Paradiso, Mazatzal Casino and the Best Western Payson Inn.