SHERIDAN — Despite being a beautiful weekend, it was a rough one for many of the participants in this year’s Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run, as only 60 percent of the runners finished the race. This year marked the 22nd year for the event, and the 13th anniversary of the 100-mile run. Along with the 100-mile run, runners can compete in a 50-mile run, a 50K and a 30K.
The courses are mapped-out through the Bighorn Mountains just outside of Dayton and are designed to maximize the exposure of the participants, their families and race volunteers to an extremely scenic, wild, and primitive area of the Bighorn Mountains.
Although the last of the runners crossed the finish line by Saturday night, Co-Race Director Michelle Maneval says the race is a year-round event.
“It’s really popular, and it has a great reputation,” Maneval said. “When registration opens up, the 30K fills up in about 10 minutes, and it only takes a couple of days to fill up the 100-mile race.”
“The trail work begins as soon as we start seeing brown spots in the snow, “ Maneval added. “There are all kinds of trees that have to be cut out. The park has to be rented a year in advance. It’s really a year-round event.”
Ultrarunning, as it is called, is technically anything longer than the standard 26.2-mile marathon. However, according to ultrarunning.com, the shortest standard distance that is considered an ultra is the 50-kilometer distance.
“Ultrarunning is becoming more and more popular over the years,” Maneval said. “People are definitely testing the human body to see how far they can push it.”
The popularity of the sport and the unique beauty of the course make the Bighorn Trail Run more than just a local event. This year’s race attracted runners from 16 different countries and nearly every state.
The race featured 116 runners in the 100-mile, 192 in the 50-mile, 231 in the 50K, and 500 in the 30K.
Among the 116 100-milers was Luke Nelson of Pocatello, Idaho. Nelson’s time of 19:10:14.73 was good enough for a first place finish.
“This was my fifth 100-miler,” Nelson said. “I race ultramarathons professionally, so I’ve run lots of ultramarathons, but 100-mile races I don’t do a lot because they’re hard.
“Bighorn is one of the old, mountain hundreds,” Nelson added. “That’s what draws me, is a good challenging course in the mountains.”
The course definitely proved to be a challenge. Although Nelson finished the race in under 20 hours, the final 100-mile finisher didn’t come in until just a shade under 34 hours.
“100-milers are kind of tricky,” Nelson said. “The number one goal for me is to have fun, and the number two goal is to finish. Anything beyond that is kind of depending on how the day goes.”
If simply finishing was the goal for every runner in the 100-mile race, than all 116 competitors accomplished their goals. Unfortunately, many of the other racers didn’t have the same success. Of the 923 runners in the 50-mile, 50K, and 30K, only 516 of them finished.
“The recovery is going to be pretty rough after this one,” Nelson said. “I had to dig pretty deep to get the results. I’ll probably take a week to a week-and-a-half off with zero running, and then slowly get back into it.”
“People want to test the limits on how far they can go,” Maneval said. “It’s a really big deal. It’s one of the most popular rated races in the country.”