As many of us do on our runs, I have dreamed of running all those races you hear about. The ones you hear all the stories and legends about of the great adventures from both your best friends and in the pages of your favorite magazines. There are endless tales of all the challenging courses out there with deep, rich history and amazing scenery. I decided this New Year that I would put together a bucket list of all my favorites; no matter how crazy they seem. I mainly decided to attack this to see how many I end up running in ten years from now and also so you all can see how crazy I am.
To start off, here are the races/adventures that I would love to repeat:
Pine 2 Palm 100: This race was special in many ways. I truly felt like I became an ultrarunner on those trails. They had such a great variety of terrain; all challenging you as you push toward the town of Ashland, OR. The community that got behind this race was just amazing! I had such an incredible experience running this as my debut 100 miler. If given the chance, I would definitely run this race again. But train more for the downhills.
Silver State 50/50: This was by far the best when it came to race organization and trail marking. Never once did I have to question where I was going. There is a deep history of runners running this race in preparation for Western States. This trail can really test you with the long climb and normally hot conditions. But it is one of the most fun and most rewarding experiences that I’ve had in an ultra. I got to meet some great people here as well.
SOB (Siskiyou Outback) 50: You often hear that ultra-runners have a great community. This is where I have felt it the most. A lot of runners that I know from all over have gathered to run either the 50 miler or the 50k here. I have run both. There are not many flats as this course takes you up and down running primarily on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail). Great views and great people! Be sure to stop in at Rogue Valley Runners when you’re in the area.
And now here is the list of 100s that I would love to run and currently rank at the top of my bucket list:
Western States Endurance Run: Seriously, who doesn’t have this race on their bucket list? If not for the deep history and legends that surround this race or the incredible competition and stories that come out of it, then go to the community. This community is unlike most anything you’ll find at another 100 in the USA. Even following this race from afar you get the sense that history is in the making. It’s this history you want to be a part of and feel with every step of the course.
Zion 100: Once I had the chance to run some trails in Zion Nat. Park in 2014 and fell in love with the beauty of the terrain. So, what’s more, natural than here there is a 100 miler there than wanting to sign up and get the full experience of those red rocks?
Tahoe Rim 100: A taste of heaven and a glimpse of hell… In this race, running you without oxygen as you stay mostly above 7000ft, the views of the lake can just as readily take your breath the same way. This course will quickly remind you of all the reasons you became a trail runner in the first place. The beauty mixed with suffering and the peace of the lonely trail with brief encounters with the community to keep going. This is my idea of a weekend getaway.
Run Rabbit Run 100: When thinking about laying down a fast 100 miler, this would be the place that I would do it. This race runs through some pretty amazing places in Colorado. Other than Western States this is known as the second most competitive 100 in the USA.
Cascade Crest 100: I blame the Ginger Runner for this race getting on my list. His documentary made it look like a true challenge and a great way to see some of Washington’s mountains.
HardRock 100: Run Steep, Get High. Need I say more? This race is legendary for its tough course and extremely tough lottery odds. With 33,050 feet of elevation gain, this race is truly a race for the experienced ultra-runner. If you want to get out of your comfort zone in heart of the ultrarunning community come here. But you know after a few years of qualifying and entering the lottery.
Bear 100: This race is also very tough like Hardrock and probably the one I would use as a qualifier. And it’s quite an adventure of its own! Big climbs, mud, and tough downhills.
UTMB: I don’t think that I will do many races outside the US but if I did, this would be the race that I would want to run. This race takes you around one of the most beautiful mountains in France to race against the best in the world on a course that truly has some breathtaking views. You get a chance to compete against some of the best in the world. Don’t eat all the gelato.
That’s it for the 100 milers and those will be some pretty epic adventures but make no mistake, a 100k can be a pretty daunting challenge as well. It can offer all the thrills and soreness that you’re looking for!
Sean O’ Brien 100k: This race runs through some great California single track trails and it’s a very competitive race for the runners here are chasing the Western States Golden Ticket. From what I’ve seen of the trails, they look a lot like the trails that I have run so I’m sure that I would feel right at home. The climbs are known to be hard to take when you are chasing those top two places.
Canyons 100k: This race takes you through some of the most difficult parts of the Western States course including the very intense climb up devils thumb. The first half is tough with 9000ft of up and down then you are rewarded in the second half with the best views. This race qualifies you for Western States so it ranks high on my list of future races.
Castle Peak 100k: A race to be the king of the mountain. This was one of the races that I almost ran last year but I decided to go for a 100 miler instead. This beautiful point to point course runs out of Truckee. This race can be a hot one; they have a required gear list to make sure that you are prepared for the course and the heat normally encountered.
UROC (Ultra Race of Champions): Running out of Auburn, CA, this year takes you on some of the final parts of the Western States course. This is a very competitive race as many of the elites show up to challenge for the win.
Next up, 50 milers and 50k’s:
North Face 50: These trails offer some amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and some great single track; just north of the Golden Gate bridge. This race is often the battleground for the great elites and weekend warriors alike. Everyone brings their A-Game to this ultra-celebration to end the year.
Lake Sonoma 50: Records have been known to fall from some of the best elites on this course. This race can often bring out your best effort whether or not it’s your fastest 50 miler. The course has many rolling hills and fast single track trails leading you through the remote parts of Lake Sonoma. This race tends to draw some of the great elites year after year for a Golden Ticket.
Zane Grey 50: This race has a reputation for the being one of the world’s toughest, roughest and most beautiful 50 miler. Running just below the Mogollon Rim in central Arizona, this race runs along some historic trails where pioneers and homesteaders once traveled. I would run there for the chance of an epic challenge.
The Rut 50K: For only being a 50k, this race has over 10,000 feet of elevation that takes you over scree fields and terrain that makes your legs burn and ache well before you’re done. Anyone who runs this would call this true mountain running. It’s set up to challenge every runner’s strength, endurance, and skills. This race is a draw for the true mountain athlete who likes the European style trail races.
Broken Arrow Skyrace: This race, much like the aforementioned race, also has over 10,000 feet of gain and terrain to test you. It takes place in the legendary Squaw Valley, taking you through the steep slopes, where you hold onto ropes, climb ladders and eventually down the snowy slopes of the ski park. You have to know the course because you can go off course easily on the many loops on the mountain. These two races are now part of the American Skyrunning Series.
So far, these races have all been trail races. Now, how about some tarmac? These are my dream marathons.
CIM: Fast, fast, fast! This race is where you go to set a PR plus practically everyone I know that runs marathons goes here. This will be a great place for anyone wanting to qualify for a Boston or even the Olympic Trials. This race has it all.
Lake Tahoe Marathon: This is a beautiful location to test your speed and if you have enough energy left, there are many mountains and a beautiful lake to enjoy afterward.
The Nebraskan Marathon: Of all the marathons in the Midwest, this would be the one that I would run. This race has a great community behind it having that welcoming small-town feel and an amazing finish in their local stadium.
Pikes Peak Marathon: This is a trail marathon that races to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado from the town below. It takes you high in the mountains, robbing your oxygen as you try to maintain a final push to the top. This race has been run by some of the best in the world and records set on this mountain are likely here to stay. I also hear there is a cool camp halfway up.
Bonus! Here are some epic and crazy adventures that I would love to try someday:
Mt. Marathon: This is a short race to the top of a local Alaskan mountain on some of the toughest, most technical terrain that you will encounter in trail running. You have to know your downhill running in order to feel safe on the snowy/rocky fields as you attack this very difficult and intense course.
Transrockies: Grab a good friend that you want to spend a few days with and run this deluxe stage race. This race takes you over some of the best parts of Colorado in an all exclusive camping trip. The trick is that you have to work with your partner for you must run within minutes of each other for the whole race. You must bring out the best in each other to do well on this amazing course. And get some elevation training first.
Tahoe 200: Ever wonder what’s beyond 100 miles? Impossible, right? Well, this race will test your patience and endurance over the course of a few days. Plus, if you think you are good at power naps, here is your chance to prove it. Sleep stations are a thing here and they are very necessary. You are greeted with some of the best sunsets as you travel all through the mountains around Tahoe Lake.
Rim to Rim to Rim FKT: I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon. But if I ever got the chance to spend a few days in the Flagstaff area I would definitely try for it. And possibly even see how slow I am compared to Jim Walmsley’s record attempt.
Trans-zion FKT: From west to east, this is one of the most unique and beautiful areas. I would not hesitate to run this route any chance I got.
Wonderland FKT: Well, this is no UTMB but you get to run around another great mountain: Mt. Rainier. Anyone in the game of running FKT this is a must.
Infinitus 888k: In the heart of Vermont, this race stands to challenge the best. Running through beautiful green woods around the clock and sleeping only when you have to in the ten days you have to finish. Only one person normally finishes this race every a year. There are many other distances so everyone has a race to run. This is the place where you can get close to nature. Maybe even go crazier than you already were before you signed up.
Appalachian Trail: I don’t think that I would ever do the run across America (too much pavement) but I would love to challenge the mountains of the east coast and try the challenge of running hard day after hard day chasing the impossible records of the legends of our sport.