Up to 800 runners are expected to tackle the trails north of town Saturday, Feb. 16, during the seventh annual Moab Red Hot 55k and 33k races.
The field includes competitors from Canada and both coasts with the largest contingent from Utah and Colorado, said race organizer Chris Martinez.
The races have grown in popularity each year, and this year’s event is up from 400 entrants a year ago. Martinez said he originally envisioned about 150 runners taking part, but word has spread about the attractive course across slickrock benches, four-wheel-drive roads and sandy washes.
“For ‘Canadian Runner’ magazine it was in the top 10 must-do races in the world,” Martinez said.
Runners are not only drawn by Moab’s scenery, but also because the Red Hot is the year’s first ultra-marathon event, he said.
“Everybody wants an excuse to come to Moab, especially people whose winter has been cold and snowy,” Martinez said. “This attracts the top American long-distance trail runners. It’s an awesome competitive field, and both the female and male divisions are packed.”
Robert Krar of Flagstaff, Ariz., last year’s 33k champion, is returning but will move up to the 55k race this time. Martinez said another top contender in the longer race is Dakota Jones, who grew up in Moab but now lives in Silverton, Colo.
The race director said most entrants in the 55k race are between the ages of 40 and 55. Those in the 33k are primarily age 25 to 35, he said.
The course record for 55k is 3 hours, 58 minutes, 50 seconds.
Martinez called the course “gorgeous” and said portions of the slickrock are technically challenging. Runners in the long race will climb 4,100 feet in elevation along the course while those in the 33k will gain 3,300 feet. The races start at Gemini Bridges trailhead.
This year’s field will be the most competitive ever, Martinez said. He set an entry limit of 800 and said he has had to turn potential entrants away.