DAYTON — Friday marks the beginning of the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run, with the 100-mile race kicking off at 10 a.m. at the base of Tongue River Canyon.
The Bighorn Trail Run, now in its 25th year, has become one of the most challenging yet popular ultramarathons in the United States, thanks in large part to its route through the Bighorn Mountains just outside of Dayton.
An ultramarathon is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles. It has become an increasingly popular sport as athletes continue to push the boundaries of running and the limits of their bodies. The Washington Post noted hallucinations, temporary blurred vision, hypothermia and stress fractures as side effects that become increasingly common with ultrarunning. Deep mud, steep climbs, possible snow and the occasional moose sighting make the Bighorn’s ultra even trickier.
A 2009 New York Times article called the Bighorn Trail Run a “race against treacherous landscape.”
It’s an also an embrace of that landscape.
A group of local runners created the race 25 years ago as a way to fight back against a proposed hydroelectric project that threatened the land, specifically in the canyon. What better way to show off the beauty of the Bighorns than running 50 miles right inside them?
And the race only grew.
The event features four races — an 18-miler, 32-miler, 52-miler and the ever-popular 100-miler. It started with 30K, 50K and 50-mile options. The 100-mile race was added in 2002, and the races all transitioned away from kilometers in recent years. Upwards of 600 runners compete in the races, and more than 350 volunteers are utilized during the event.
Racers file into Wyoming from all over the world. The 2013 male 100-mile winner, Ysuyohi Kaburaki, hailed from Japan.
Top times tend to fluctuate as weather and terrain play significant roles in the speed of runners, but as the years go on, racers become more prepared and times have gradually dropped. Of course, there are still a number of drop outs each year, but broken records aren’t as unexepected.
It took four years before Brandon Sybrowski’s original 100-mile male record of 21 hours, 5 minutes and 32 seconds was topped. But in the last 10 years, the record has been broken five times. Nineteen-year-old Andrew Miller of Corvallis, Oregon, set the current record in 2015 with an impressive 18:29:37 finish. Race director Michelle Maneval wasn’t done setting up the race’s finish line when Miller came trotting in just after 5 in the morning.
The women’s 100-mile record has been broken five times since 2002, with Ashley Nordell’s 21:38:43 time at last year’s race marking the new time to beat.
Other records include:
Male: Seth Swanson 7:17:05 (2013)
Female: Darcy Piceu 8:49:19 (2015)
Male: Dane Mitchell 3:50:53 (2013)
Female: Joy Roe-Pachirat 4:45:37 (2009)
Male: Ben Emery 1:56:24 (2013)
Female: Nicole Gurnics 2:15:05 (2010)
Clearly, 2013 was a pretty good year to run the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run. But as ultrarunning becomes increasingly popular and the beauty of the Bighorns continues to draw the sport’s best competitors, times will drop and records will shatter.
The 2017 100-mile race will begin at 10 a.m. Friday. The 52-miler begins at 5 a.m. Saturday, followed by the 32-miler at 8 a.m. and the 18-miler at 10 a.m. All races finish at Scott Park in Dayton, where there will be food, music, cheering sections and plenty of sore, tired and relieved ultrarunners.