The 15.4 mile Pemberton Trail within picturesque McDowell Mountain Regional Park served as the setting for this weekend’s Javelina 12 Hour night run hosted by Aravaipa Running. This gathering of Arizona’s ultra and trail running community kicked off at 6pm, just as the sun set behind the McDowell Mountains to the west of the park. Runners ranging in age from 15 to 76 set out to tackle anywhere from 1 to 4 loops on the trail. One of the unique features of this trail run is special permission to access the park’s trail system at night (trails normally close at sunset). Although flashlights were needed for the first two hours, the almost full moon eventually rose as runners neared the end of their first loop, offering spectacular views above Four Peaks.
Many runners used this event as training and simulation of the upcoming Javelina Jundred taking place on the same trail November 12-13. This is a great way to test out shoes, lighting, pacing strategies and nighttime conditions before the “big day”. Others were simply out to enjoy the trail or compete in their first ultra marathon. One other unique aspect of this event, is that runners do not have to declare how many laps they will be running in advance. Runners are free to continue accumulating laps up to the 12 hour time limit. As for top placing, if a runner continues on past a shorter distance, they are no longer eligible for that award, even if they technically had the fastest time of the night.
Now onto the race. 134 runners set out into the fading twilight promptly at 6pm with darkness quickly enveloping the dramatic mountain landscape in all directions. The first few miles of packed gravel trail meanders and rolls across the desert floor. The trail crosses through numerous dry wash beds that drain the imposing McDowell Mountains out to the Verde River.
As the runners made their way up the gradual first climb of the course, back at Javelina Jeadquarters, volunteers were busy preparing food, slicing pumpkin pie, and picking up pizza from nearby Fountain Hills. The normally quiet trail head was transformed into a colorful city of lighted tents, glowing orange, blue and white under the night sky. Family, friends and spectators assembled around the staging area, lining up chairs to watch the evening unfold and passing guesses on when and who the first runner would arrive over the hill. Time always seems to fly by at these endurance events, and before long shouts of “runner up” could be heard echoing across Jeadquarters. Tucson runner Brian Zacher came flying in just over 2:08 and Alex Kaine was one minute back. Loud cheering erupted out of the “stands” as bottles were quickly refilled and calories replenished. They both made a quick turnaround and headed back out the same way they just came in for their second loop (the course reverses direction each lap).
This year’s Angeles Crest 100 winner Paulette Zillmer was the top female in off the first loop and decided to call it a night, claiming the 25 Km award. Graham Bailey from Mesa was the top 25 Km runner, finishing in 2:22. Sixty runners returned back out on the course for their second lap. Geoffrey Foote was the top 50 Km finisher in a time of 5:10 and Rachel James completed her 50 Km in 5:17. A total of 32 runners completed the 50 Km ultra distance, including 76 year old Eugene Bruckert from Illinois!
Twenty-eight runners decided they didn’t get enough yet, and continued on. Brian and Alex who led on lap 1 stayed in the lead through 75 Km, but both had enough and decided not to head out on a fourth lap. Out of those 28, only three completed the 100 Km distance including winner Jay Danek who is training for his second 100 mile race next month at the Javelina Jundred, first time ultra runner Dov Greenberg, and two time Javelina Jundred finisher Mark Kirkby in a close third.
Thanks to all of the great volunteers who were out on the course and in the aid station serving up food and drinks for everyone!
To wrap up this year’s report, we’d like to give a few runner perspectives on the race. Jay Danek (who won the 100 Km), Christine Harrison and Nancy Ishizawa all offered up their take on the event: