Proof the Pine Trail Run is gaining both statewide and national recognition surfaced during the post-race awards ceremony when the overall winners and their home towns were announced.
The winner of the 8-plus-mile event, Yuval Zurai, hailed from Long Island City, N.Y. and the female champion, Jamie Bellian, was from Phoenix.
Zarai finished in 1:14.21 and Bellian in 1:30.47.
“We had 19 runners from the Payson area, 21 from Pine-Strawberry and the remainder from the Phoenix area,” said race director and founder Scott Kehl.
Runners from Sedona, Prescott Valley, Lake Havasu City, Taylor, Show Low and Grand Junction, Colo. also participated.
Although the field was originally to be limited to 150 runners to avoid congestion and mishaps on the trails, some of which are single track, Kehl allowed 156 to enter.
In the 5K female event, Pine-Strawberry School teacher Sky Lammers emerged victorious in her first attempt at the race.
“Initially, I planned to run the 8.6-mile track but allergies were so awful I didn’t really get a chance to train for it,” Lammers said. “I will next year for sure.”
She recalls the first mile of the run being the most difficult, “It was pretty tough as it was mostly uphill, but the last two miles were a blast and fun to run; I really enjoyed it.”
Phoenix runner Brad Hanson won the 5K male division crown in 30:50.
The race also featured age-gender grading which is a method of applying a handicap based on age and gender to adjust each runner’s time.
Brett Lind of Pine captured the age-gender championship in 1:07.20.
Pine runner Susan Irons was among the entrants to prove some seniors have plenty of fuel in the tank winning the female 70-plus years title in 3:07.6.
Also in the field were entrants from several running clubs around the state including SWAAT, Traileggers, Boeing Running Peeps, The Running University, Arizona Road Racers, Tucson Runners Project, Moms Run This Town and the hometown clubs Rim Country Trail Runners and Payson Trail Runners.
Following the run and awards ceremony, spectators and entrants mulled around the finish line rehashing their efforts and lauding the event.
“I’m really glad they started it,” said Lammers. “The race track is in some really beautiful country and it’s a unique challenge.”
Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction sponsored the race that benefited nine non-profit organizations around the Rim Country.