Veteran runners familiar with the challenges of the Zane Grey Highline 50-Mile Trail Race found themselves more than a bit confused when the course direction was reversed from past years.
In the previous 11 races, the event was run from west to east, with the starting line at the Pine Creek Trailhead and the finish at the 260 Trailhead.
For the April 28 run on the Highline Trail, runners began at the 260 Trailhead and finished at Pine Creek.
Martin Szekeresh, who has competed in past Zane Grey 50-Mile runs and each year helps sponsor the event, said reversing the direction of the course, "reduced the total ascent from approximately 11,000 feet, down to 9,500 feet."
He also called the race "one of the toughest trail runs in the United States, because it is held at elevation and the footing is, at times, horrendous."
Eastern races, he said, "have rocks, but they are usually embedded in place. Here they move when stepped on."
Almost all runners "showed a little blood at the finish line."
In the field of 97 men and 32 women, 75 men and 16 women finished within the allotted time.
"Along the route, there are five aid stations and each has a cut-off time that must be met," he said. "All runners must reach the Camp Geronimo station, 42 miles into the race, in 13 hours and 15 minutes."
The race began at 5 a.m. and the cut-off time at Geronimo was 6:15 p.m.
For those late-arriving runners, precautions were taken for them to continue after the sun had set.
"All runners leaving that station after 3:30 p.m. had to carry a flashlight," Szekeresh said.
Also, glow sticks were hung along the trail to keep the runners on course.
First place honors went to Kyle Skaggs of Glenwood, N.M., whose time was nine hours 25 minutes.
Emily Baer of Silverton, Colo. was first in the women's division, with a time of 10 hours 33 minutes.
Susan Gebhart, 52, of Penrose, Colo. and 54-year-old Annette Anthony of Lake City, Colo. were the two oldest female finishers. Both were timed in at 16 hours, 31 minutes.
The oldest male finisher, 70-year-old Karsten Solheim of Phoenix, completed his 12th consecutive Zane Grey race. He was timed in at 15 hours 27 minutes.
Those who entered the Zane Grey 50-Mile race are considered ultra-runners, defined as those who compete in races longer than traditional 26.2-mile marathons.
According to Szekeresh, most ultra-runners compete in marathons only for speed work and as training.
No local runners entered the 2007 event.