FOUNTAIN HILLS — About 16 hours after they begin Saturday, the fastest runners in the Javelina Jundred will cross the finish line. Many in costume.
The Halloween-themed ultramarathon is a 100-mile trail race run in McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills. Organized by Aravaipa Running with approximately 260 participants, it is one of the more social ultramarathons, according to participants and organizers.
“There’s so many runners at this race that you’re constantly high-fiving people,” said Emily Toia, who will run the race for the second time. “Everyone is just out there for everybody and I absolutely love that.”
Chris Worden, another participant, agreed.
“I was a pacer last year for my girlfriend and over the course of the weekend I was out at the packet pick-up and the race site for most of the day,” Worden said. “I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to be a part of it.”
Ultramarathoning has exploded in the United States in the past 10 years. According to data compiled by Ultrarunning Magazine, the number of ultra races more than quadrupled to 1,296, between 2004 and 2014.
Aravaipa founder Jamil Coury has been an instrumental part of the growth of ultramarathons in Arizona. After beginning his running career on his high school cross-country team, he joined a running Meetup group that introduced him to the world of ultrarunning.
“I found a local group of trail runners and just started running with them,” Coury said. “I started hearing about some of the longer runs they were doing on the weekends and joined them for some of those. I instantly fell in love.”
Coury said he specifically designed Aravaipa Running to be a program for the community. Worden is just one of the runners who participates in the weekly group runs as well as the ultramarathons.
“A friend of mine dared me to start running marathons and half marathons on the road, but I got bored with that,” Worden said. “I learned about the Aravaipa Running Meetups through their races and some friends. I would say about 90 to 95 percent of the training I do now is out here on the trails.”
An ultramarathon is any running race longer than the 26.2 miles of a marathon, according to Ultrarunning Magazine. While Worden has run 50-mile ultras, this will be the first time he will run one at the triple-digit distance. To get ready for the race, he even engaged his body in sleep deprivation to prepare his system for the shock of possibly not sleeping. In his case, he’s looking at potentially 28-30 hours of not sleeping if he wants to finish by his goal time of 30 hours or less.
Toia, a former volleyball player, completed all of her training on a treadmill.
“When I get outside, I tend to feel like everything is new and the miles seem to go by faster,” Toia said. “I just found that the treadmill is more forgiving on joints and I don’t have to worry about injuries. When I’m on a treadmill, it’s my ‘me time’ and I just zone and go.”
With all the training and stress put on the body, one of the major questions is: Why would anyone want to run 100 miles, especially just for fun?
“I run the trails simply to clear my mind and to test myself,” Worden said. “It’s really just a chance to zone out and tune the world out.”
“The draw for me is to see what my limits are and see what I can run,” Coury said. “My goal used to be to run just five to seven miles a day. After a while, seven miles a day isn’t that difficult and your body adapts to it. Soon I was left wondering, what can I do?”