If fabled ultra-marathoner, author and former Las Vegas engineer Ed Furtaw has his way, Pine-Strawberry will next year add another long distance run to the two mountain hamlets’ list of athletic adventures.
As a member of the Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction trail-work and the Pine Trail Run committees, Furtaw last year suggested the groups add a 50-kilometer (31.1 miles) run to the Rim Country’s running agenda.
After presenting the idea to Pine Trail Run founder Scott Kehl, Furtaw was charged with designing a course.
“I did not have one in mind but began researching local trails,” said Furtaw. “I devised a challenging and very scenic course that maps out to 31.1 miles.”
In December, he and a pair of his running friends from Colorado made a test run on the course and “we all loved it.”
In fact, his buddies promised they would return to P-S for the inaugural race on its proposed start date in 2020.
Furtaw explains the course will begin and end at the Pine Trailhead and run in a loop counter-clockwise on trails and Forest Service dirt roads in the Tonto and Coconino national forests. Due to the altitude and elevation changes, it would be among the more difficult 50K runs in the West, he said.
Furtaw, however, has spotted a huge attraction, “The scenic beauty and rugged nature of the course will have a strong appeal to most ultra-runners.”
With a proposed course in mind, Furtaw presented his 50K concept to the PSFR’s board of directors who agreed to move forward with adding the race to the Pine Trail Run beginning May 2, 2020.
With the run now a reality, he has begun laying the foundation for hosting such an event including placing aid stations, finding course monitors, acquiring insurance permits, planning event calendars, promoting, advertising, developing a website, parking control, finish line setup and much more.
“The biggest hurdle we will have to overcome is recruiting the volunteers it will take to put on a well-managed race,” Furtaw said.
While hosting is a daunting challenge for most all race directors, Furtaw’s experience in the sport should provide him with the expertise it takes to ensure the race is a hit on the long distance running scene.
Running a remedy
Furtaw took up running in 1977 at the age of 29 as an outlet to relieve the stress and sedentariness of being a college student.
“The more I ran, the more I liked it,” he remembers.
In 1978, he ran his first marathon (26.2 miles) and has run about 20 since.
In 1983, he discovered ultra-marathons and has run more than 150 “ultras.”
In 1988, he faced probably his biggest challenge when he became the first person to complete one of the Barkley Marathons, a challenging mountain trail race in Tennessee.
The race has since become known as the most difficult footrace in the country because less than 2 percent of starters finish the entire race.
In 2010, his book, “Tales From Out There; the Barkley Marathons, the world’s Toughest Trail Race,” was published giving him, he says, “Some notoriety in the sport.”
Furtaw and is wife Gail stumbled on Pine in 1991 while in the area to compete in the Zane Grey Highline Trail 50-mile race.
“At the time we were living in Las Vegas, but we frequently came to Arizona for me to run ultras,” Furtaw recalls.
After retiring as an engineer, the Furtaws moved to Colorado but quickly learned the elevation and snowy winters limited training opportunities.
Searching for a new place to live, the Furtaws fondly remembered their time in Pine and moved to the tiny town in September 2017.
“We totally love living here,” Furtaw said. “There are virtually endless trails in the surrounding forest and we especially like the small-town friendliness of nearly everyone we meet.”