I had been excited about this event ever since I realized it was held in the same Tonto National Forest that I run in when I visit my in-laws who live east of Phoenix in Gold Canyon at the Peralta Trailhead. I had visions of the Zane Grey trail overgrown with cacti similar to what I have experienced when running from the Peralta trailhead. On our two hour drive north to Payson, the nearest town to the Zane Grey trail, it became clear that those visions were misguided. Not surprisingly given the higher elevations, the cacti had disappeared and the vegetation was a mix of scrub, grass and trees. The trail was established in 1870 and follows along the south edge of the Mogollon rim which provided magnificent views throughout the day like the one below:
The trail has the reputation of being difficult to run in part because it is frequently overgrown with manzanita and other scrub that bites back when runners attempt to go through it. An army of volunteers had really outdone themselves this year clearing the trail as you can see in the photo below. Previous finishers should be jealous at how much easier it was this year!
The organization of the event was very low key although very well executed. I was surprised at the low turnout for the pasta dinner the night before--are there excellent restaurants in Payson that no one told us about? The race was unusual in not having any kind of pre-race briefing either the night or morning before the race but the course was exceptionally well-marked which was particularly helpful given the difficulty of following the trail itself which frequently disappeared in dry gullies or grasslands with many overlapping false trails. Fortunately, Francine was able to drive me to the start and pick me up at the finish. The point to point nature of the course was definitely part of the appeal for me, but I was surprised that there was no organized transportation to help solo runners get back to the starting line after the race.
|Double click to see detail.|
|Lots of short climbs.|
I can't explain it any better than the FAQ page of the race website:
"No, race management does NOT provide transportation to or from the race. The race is a point-to-point run starting in the town of Pine, finishing in Christopher Creek. If you cannot manage the logistics of either getting there or getting home, do not run this race. There will not be transportation back to Pine provided from the finish."
The volunteers and radio operators kept my spirits up on a difficult day but I'm glad I experienced Zane Grey. I finished in 12hr19min but never felt comfortable running the entire day.