The Black Canyon Trail is located one hour north of downtown Phoenix, Arizona, in the expansive desert metropolis of approximately 1.6 million people (5 million in the larger metropolitan region). A historic National Recreation route that has been used and followed for thousands of years, it is an 80-mile section of the mostly single-track route that runs from north to south and may be found by gazing west from the highway.
The Yavapai Apache and the Hohokam have ancestral grounds where the Black Canyon Ultras 100K/60K is held. The race follows the Black Canyon Trail, which historically served as a livestock road for woolgrowers as it descended from the Bradshaw Mountains to the north. Because of its historical significance and immaculate state, it was named a National Recreation Trail in 2008.
The Black Canyon Ultras sponsored by HOKA, Aravaipa Running’s third event of the year, will take place this weekend. Judging from the field and the fact that there will be Western States Golden Tickets at the finish line, it’s going to be a barn-burner.
Runners will experience the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, complete with saguaro cactus and steep canyons as they cover 55 miles of the historic trail. The course crisscrosses the Agua Fria River and finishes at the Emery Henderson Trailhead. Those running the 60K distance will also have the chance to finish at Rock Springs Cafe, famous for its pies.
The race is a point-to-point single-track course with a 100K gain of 5,190 feet and a 60K gain of 2,297 feet. The course records are held by Sage Canaday (2016) for men with a time of 7:52:26 and Brittany Peterson (2021) for women with a time of 8:48:32.
Co-founder of Aravaipa Running, Jamil Coury, believes the Black Canyon Trail is an instant classic route. With this year marking the 10th anniversary of the Black Canyon Ultras, the Aravaipa team continues to innovate to provide the best race experience possible for runners and spectators alike. This includes live-streaming the race, field reporters, and an athlete panel for the expo on Friday.
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Jamil Coury is thrilled about the livestream experience innovations, which he considers one of the most exciting things about the event. According to him, this type of live viewing of the sport is new and constantly evolving, and he hopes that Black Canyon will offer one of the best in the United States.
To follow the race, viewers can tune in to the YouTube livestream, which starts at 6:00 AM (Arizona Time) on Saturday. They can also use the website’s live tracking feature, and follow story updates on Instagram. For more information, visit the official website.
Mike Melchiors, 62, of Dewey, Arizona, is one local who has participated in the race each and every year since it began in 2014. The race will be raced for the sixth time by leading competitor Brianna Grigsby, 35, of Tucson and a member of the Aravaipa Racing Team. She issues a warning regarding the course’s difficulty and suggests reserving some energy for the steep climbs in the final 25 miles of the race.
While many runners are drawn to the Black Canyon Ultras for a sunny desert run, the weather can be unpredictable. Some years, temperatures reach the 90s, while others experience flash flooding and course re-routes. This year, snow has been reported on the upper parts of the course, and the organizers are keeping their fingers crossed that there won’t be too much rain to force a re-route.
One of the toughest ultramarathons to ever take place in the United States is this weekend’s Black Canyon 100K. Some of the best ultrarunners in the world will participate in the competition in an effort to win the coveted Golden Ticket, which ensures admittance into the Western States 100.
Ryan Miller, a 2:14 marathoner who won the Bandera 100K in 2021 and the Gorge Waterfalls 50K in 2022, is among the talented men’s field. A 31-year-old from Flagstaff, Arizona named John Raneri will be making his ultra debut and aiming for that Golden Ticket after clocking a 2:12 marathon in Sacramento’s CIM in December. With a third-place finish at the 2022 UTMB event and a third-place finish at the Western States 100 race the previous year, UK native Tom Evans, one of the sport’s most successful runners, will also be competing for a podium slot.
Another name to keep an eye on in the men’s field is 34-year-old Salt Lake City resident Anthony Costales. He has won several challenging ultramarathons, including the Canyons 100K and Moab Red Hot 55K, both in 2021. He is a 2:13 marathoner who finished second to Adam Peterman at the Chuckanut 50K last year. Tim Freriks, Cole Watson, and David Laney are some other power players to be on the lookout for.
The rivalry is just as tough on the women’s side. Canadian athlete Ailsa Macdonald, 42, from Alberta, won the Black Canyon 100K in 2018 in 8:53:33, and in 2022 she placed second at Western States. Ida Nilsson, a talented Swedish runner who now resides in Norway and finished third in the CCC in Chamonix in 2018 and won the Transvulcania 73K, will also be competing for the podium.
Top female candidate Keely Henninger, 30, is from Portland, Oregon. Henninger, who placed ninth at the 2018 Western States and has won the 2022 Gorge Waterfalls 50K and 2022 Lake Sonoma 50 Miler, believes the terrain will work well for her training regimen. A rising talent from Flagstaff, Arizona, Georgia Porter, 34, will be running the 100K distance for the first time. Heather Jackson, a 38-year-old triathlete prodigy, made a statement at her first ultramarathon at the Javelina Jundred by placing fifth, and she will be vying for the podium as she trains for Western States in June. With a second-place result at the UTMB, Colorado Springs resident Hannah Allgood, 31, is eager to run Black Canyon and test her stamina.
Don’t miss the chance to experience this world-class running route along the Black Canyon Trail. Lace-up your shoes, and get ready for an adventure like no other.