The UTMB World Series continued with the 20th Desert RATS (Running Across the Sand) Trail Running Festival Series by UTMB®. This event offers both exhilarating trail running and breathtaking scenery in Fruita,western Colorado. National and international runners met at the Hawkeye Trailhead taking on four courses of 50K, 42K, 25K and 10K. Runners traversed the famous Kokopelli Trail along the Colorado river or through the Western Rim at this trail running mecca.
Desert Rats 50k
On Saturday, the 50K and 42K (marathon) runners took to the Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB® course. It was ultrarunner Brian Whitfield (Colorado Springs, CO) who took the victory in the men’s 50K race with a time of 3:31:19. Arnaud Bronin finishing in 3:35:06 came home second while Jeffrey Colt with a time of 3:39:15 finished third. Meghan Cihasky (Durango, CO.) finished first in the female 50K with a time of 4:14:35. Peyton Thomas led the race early but ultimately came home in second with a time of 4:15:09 and Gabriella Brinkley completed the course in 4:31:49 finished in third place.
“The race was awesome. It was super fun to have a competitive course and runners out there, including some young runners and Europeans”. said Brian Whitfield.
“The course was absolutely beautiful, just really lucky to be out there overlooking the river – it was magical,” said Meghan Cihasky.
Desert Rats 100k
A 100K distance was originally slated to take place on Friday of race weekend, however heavy rainfall in the area caused muddy and wet trail conditions. With a lack of accessibility to deploy safety assets, officials made the decision to cancel the Desert RATS 100K. Participants that were scheduled for the 100K had the option to participate in a separate 50K race on Saturday.
Of the 100K registered ultrarunners that choose to run the alternative 50K event, Craig Hunt (Flagstaff, AZ.) topped the males with a time of 3:39:45. Jonathan Rea followed closely in second with a time of 3:41:27. Yutaro Yokouchi rounded out the podium in third with a time of 3:52:53. On the female side, Arden Young (Calgary, AB, CAN) finished first with a time of 4:41:19. Michele Yates finished second just over six minutes behind with a time of 4:47:26. Elena Ormon finished third with an overall time of 5:08:12.
“The race was great! It went exactly to my plan where I wanted to stay in control and conservative. I let the leaders open a gap if they wanted too but keep them within reach. Later I made a strong move with about 3-miles to go and rolled on my teammate (Jonathan Rea) but I knew he had 100-mile strength. I just didn’t know what he had left and it worked out in my favor”, said Craig Hunt.
Arden Young said “I came in expecting to run the 100K but for reasons no one can control it was disappointing. The 50K course was beautiful and the trails were in really good condition considering the rain we had so glad we got out and had a fun day. The Mesa overlooks were actually really beautiful; you couldn’t look up too much or you’d trip over the rocks”.
Top 3 m/f finishers of both 50K races earned automatic qualification into the UTMB OCC, the 50K category final for the UTMB World Series.
While the 100K course is notoriously considered the queen stage, the other courses have just as much to offer. The 21K course has earned itself the title as one of the most scenic half marathons according to Active Magazine. Jeshurun Small with a finishing time of 1:23:23 and Tabor Hemming in 1:32:58 were the winners of the 21km.
Chris Sovacool was the men’s marathon/42K winner in a time of 3:38:55. Raquel Harper was the winner of the women’s marathon/42K race.
Mark Wilson 44:27 and Alexa Berstler 50:00 were the 10K winners on Sunday.
The event lived up to its reputation as an opportunity for those seeking a true trail running adventure. The 2023 Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB® treated runners of all abilities with a challenging but beautiful course. Positioned just outside Rattlesnake Canyon in Grand Junction, Fruita served as both a challenging and welcoming venue for the runners. The ascent along the red slickrock cliffs and around the Western Rim is exceptional beautiful.
Competitors across all the events were also competing for the coveted Running Stones. These are earned by finishing their chosen course. The Stones are used to enter the lottery for the UTMB® World Series Finals at the UTMB® Mont-Blanc.
Presale for the 2024 Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB is now open by visiting, https://desertrats.utmb.world/.
Next Up for the UTMB® World Series:
UTMB® World Series continues making its way to Auburn, California for the Canyons Endurance Runs on April 28-29. To see the full schedule of UTMB® World Series events, visit www.utmb.world.