Bringing Back the Antelope 100
Earlier this year we decided that we wanted to bring back the Antelope Canyon 100 mile race. The 50 miler and 50k have become super popular the last couple years, and we thought it was time to see if we could get enough people to run the 100. We initially were going to require 200 people to sign up for the 100 miler before we gave it the green light. Last month, we adjusted our plans and said we’ll hold the race no matter the numbers.
This post is intended to give some context as to why we are making the decisions we are making. I would love to hear your feedback.
The race starts in Page and heads out in the desert straight towards Antelope Canyon. It is a special experience to get to run through the upper portion of the canyon and because they operate tours, we have to get in and out of the canyon as early as possible.
After Antelope canyon, runners head towards Horseshoe Bend. This section of trail is normally off limits without getting special permission. Horseshoe bend is one of the most photographed areas on the Colorado River. This section of the course is truly stunning. After running along Horseshoe Bend, runners drop into Waterholes Canyon. While Antelope Canyon gets the glory, Waterholes is consistently reviewed as a course favorite. It is more runnable and much longer than Antelope, and is almost as scenic.
At this point, most 100 mile runners have had it with the sand and are starting to feel every step. We have them head back to the page rim trail where they get to enjoy 5 loops that go around the town of Page, AZ enjoying two aid stations during each loop.
You can read a more detailed course description here.
Matt started the Antelope Canyon Ultra with the 100 miler as the primary distance at the event. While attendance at the 100 was never very robust in the first couple years it was very well reviewed.
After we put on this race in 2015, several seasoned ultrarunners described it as a perfectly designed 100 mile course. The first 50 miles are full of exploration to highlights such as Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Waterholes Canyon, and overlooks of Lake Powell. After wearing yourself out on these more sandy and technical sections, the second 50 miles are locked on the smooth, singletrack, ten-mile loop of the Page Rim trail. where you'll have aid stations every 5 miles that you'll make repeat visits to.
The accessibility of this loop trail makes it logistically perfect to plan and prepare for the long night ahead with your drop bags, and for your crew and pacers to support you. And since the Page Rim trail circumnavigates the city of Page, your crew will never be more than a few minutes away from their hotel room or campsite, so you won't have to worry about their comfort.
When we first decided to bring back the 100 mile distance we were concerned that only a handful of people would sign up. As an event operator, the biggest challenge you have is when you don’t get minimum attendance for an event. There is a fixed cost to doing a race. For example, you have to pay someone to mark 100 miles of trail whether 10 people or 300 people show up. You still have to setup the same number of aid stations. You still have to setup remote toilets, etc. However, when only 10 people sign up your budget is much smaller for the same amount of work.
Our 100 mile races at Zion and Bryce Canyon both start on Friday, a day before the other distances. We initially planned to follow the same pattern for Antelope Canyon. We looked at the costs to operate our aid stations for an extra day, and the costs involved to operate over Friday and Saturday. We determined we would need 200 people at minimum to justify the work involved.
As we have since learned, if a race isn’t 100% sure to happen, many runners are reluctant to sign up.
About 2 months ago Matt had the idea to start the 100 miler at the same time as the 50 miler and run it through Saturday night and finish midday Sunday. When we changed our thinking to a Saturday start, it really changed everything for us. Our production costs drop as we only need to keep two aid stations open through the night, and it wouldn’t even require an extra day for bib pickup.
After we gave it some thought we decided to drop the 200 person requirement and pull the trigger on the race no matter what. We have 66 people signed up for the 100 mile race so far and we think it is going to be an all night party as we welcome runners in to a glorious finish.
We plan to open the 100 in 2019 as well, and we have discussed the possibility of making it a Western States Qualifier in the future. It is possible, but we need to build attendance first, so we may not get there until 2020 at the soonest.
In any case, we are super excited to offer the 100 mile distance again. You are going to LOVE it. We hope you join us this year!