Bob Young, a longtime sports reporter and columnist for the Arizona Republic, thrived in his personal opportunity to compete in a big time event rather than simply write about it.
It all unfolded April 27 during the running of the 24th Annual Zane Grey Highline Trail 50-Mile Endurance Race that began at the far west end of the Highline Trail north of Strawberry and ended at the 260 Trailhead east of Christopher Creek.
Young, a 54-year old seasoned runner, was making his first ever attempt and what many call the toughest most challenging race on the ultra-marathon circuit.
Young, who lives part time in Payson, achieved his goal of finishing the grueling run, but didn’t do it as quickly as he had hoped.
“I finished in 13:38.45 which was a little disappointing,” he said. “I hoped to break 13 hours, but I’m happy to have finished in my first attempt.”
The race winner, James Bonnett, 26, holds the record for being the youngest to ever complete the Zane Grey having finished it in 2001 as a 14-year old. He’s also considered a superstar in long distance running having competed at the Western States 100 Mile, the Crown King Scramble and a myriad of other events dating back to 1996.
Bonnett’s time at the 24th Annual Zane Grey of 8:40.18 2 was more than 20 minutes faster than runner-up Mike Foote.
In comparison, last year’s men’s winner Caitlow Shipek was timed in 8:32.30.
The first female finisher of the 2013 race, 36-year old Kerrie Bruxvoort of Colorado, was seventh overall in 10:03.58.
Of the 124 runners who started the race, 95 finished.
The Highline Trail was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1979. Since then, the Forest Service and hundreds of volunteers have worked countless hours over the years to clear, maintain and mark the trail.
Nonetheless, the trail remains one of the most challenging long distance treks in the country.
Some will argue it’s a more demanding race than most 100-mile ultra-marathons.
“It lives up to its reputation and more,” said Young.