50-Mile Race Fixture On Payson Sports Scene

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Martin Szekeresh knows the rigors, and the lack of recognition, that go along with being an ultra runner.

For years, he competed in the grueling runs that are traditionally identified as ones longer than the 26.2-mile marathons.

The past few years, however, he's been hobbled by a knee injury that has slowed his ability to run but has not dampened his enthusiasm for the Zane Grey Highline 50-Mile Race.

For this year's race, which will be held April 29, he'll help out by captaining an aid station.

"I'll be at Christopher Creek, the final one before the end of the race," he said. "Dr. Sanders, a chiropractor, will be there with me."

The race is expected to draw a field of more than 125 runners, including Darron DeRouin of Payson.

He will be participating to raise money for the New Beginnings Pregnancy Center.

The only other local runner to have participated in the race is Szekeresh who has a goal of helping the event become a fixture on the Rim Country sports scene.

In past years, the runs have been known as the best-kept secrets in the Rim Country.

"We want to change that," Szekeresh said.

The event will begin about 3:45 a.m. when runners are shuttled to the start line near the Beeline trailhead of the Highline Trail.

According to Szekeresh, the course runs west to east "through scenic Tonto National Forest on a rugged trail with plenty of dead trees to climb and streams to cross."

The Highline (TR31), one of the most popular hiking trails in Arizona, is actually 51.4 miles long.

(The Highline race course) starts at an elevation of 5,400 feet, peaks at 6,800 and ends at 6,000, Szekeresh said.

Event organizers will set up aid stations at various trailheads along the course where runners can pick up water, sports drinks and snacks.

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The rigors of the Highland Trail 50-Mile run include many uphill climbs over hard-to-find paths.

Also, if runners do not reach the aid stations by a predetermined time, they must withdraw from the race.

Entrants have the option on the day prior to the race of placing drop bags at various locations on the trail. In the bags are changes of shoes, socks, shirts and flashlights. Each participant also usually outfits himself with a fanny pack that includes energy bars and water.

Representatives from the Payson Ranger District, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue unit and local amateur radio communication operators will be on hand to oversee the race. The race, Szekeresh said, could not be held without their support.

In 2005

Last year's run attracted 124 runners from 14 states and Japan, Szekeresh said.

Among the 96 runners who finished, Scott Crell, 44, of Bozeman, Mont., won the men's division in 8 hours and 17 minutes.

The women's champion, Nikki Kimball, 33, also of Bozeman, Mont., was victorious in 9 hours and 34 minutes.

A pair of father-and-son teams from Arizona participated in the run. Scottsdale residents James Bonnett, 18, and his 43-year-old father, Paul, entered, as did Jimmy Wrublik, 15, and his father, Rodger, 48, both of Litchfield Park.

James Bonnett finished in 10 hours and Paul Bonnett crossed the finish line in 11 hours and 29 minutes. The Wrubliks crossed the finish line together in 16 hours, 12 minutes, Szekeresh said.

The oldest runner, 68-year-old Karsten Solheim of Glendale, completed his tenth Zane Grey run after dark in the rain.

The 2004 edition of the run turned into a record setting event.

Dave Mackey, a 34-year-old Colorado athlete, covered the national recreation trail in seven hours and 51 minutes to set a new standard and claim the $500 bonus that goes along with it.

In the female open division, Nikki Kimball, also the 2005 winner, set a record, finishing the course in nine hours and 14 minutes.

In the master's division, Crell finished first in eight hours and one minute. That also was an age-division record.

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