Ultrarunners, crews, volunteers and spectators all “got their kicks on Route 66” at the second annual Route 66 UltraRun in Arizona. Solo runners and relay teams took on 140 miles of a beautiful desert race course along historic Route 66.
The race is a visually stunning and challenging run through small towns and quirky stops between Seligman and Topock66, AZ, and was founded to raise money and awareness for both the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of Mark “Mace” Macy, as well as the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona in honor of Angel Delgadillo.
Runners have 60 hours to cover 140 miles past colorful spots like the Caverns Inn, Peach Springs, Hackberry, Antares, Kingman, Cool Springs and Oatman, AZ.
While solo runners cover the entire distance, teams have the option to rotate runners in any order for as many or as few miles as they choose.
In the solo division, Brad Lombardi took the early lead in Peach Springs at mile 37. Behind Lombardi but within sight, was 2022 third-place finisher, Remo Spagnol who kept his afterburners in check knowing it would be a long race. Slotting into the leaderboard were Sandy Geisel, another 2022 finisher, along with veteran endurance athlete, Gurinder “Ricky” Singh, and this year’s oldest competitor, James Ehasz (age 70). They were followed by determined and energized youngbloods, Jace Babka, who had never run any race of any distance, and Andrew Kelly from the UK, our first international runner. Our race organizers believe in people who believe in themselves, which is the ultimate qualification to run any distance.
None of these runners could accomplish this feat without the encouragement and support of their tireless crews and team members who would perform the endless cycle of driving a few miles ahead to prepare anything for their runner. We also could not put on the race itself without our beloved volunteers, all of whom make the sport of ultrarunning truly magical.
Runners continued past Giganticus Headicus before rolling into Kingman at mile 87 and its oasis of parking and bathrooms. By the time Spagnol cruised into Kingman with the lead in the solo category, the Desert Runners were already near Cool Springs.
The other relay team, the all-male Cinco Banditos, took a different approach than the Desert Runners, who swapped places every 5–10 miles. The Banditos tried having members cover up to 36 miles each, which they abandoned later in the race.
Runners continued over Sitgreaves Pass, which included 120 turns in 9 miles, before straightening out around Oatman where the omnipresent burros welcomed everyone at mile 115. After the cooler night in the hills, the rolling downhill to Topock66 brought heat-related challenges to those who made it onto the sandy flats and marshlands in the daylight.
Spagnol won the solo division in 30:36, while Singh finished in second and Ehasz finished strong in third. The Desert Runners and Banditos finished first and second respectively, in the relay team division.
Everyone came to appreciate the history of the Route, including running the same 140-mile stretch covered in the 1928 Bunion Derby, a transcontinental stage race won by a young Cherokee runner, Andy Payne. Honoring this legacy and tradition, we created the Andy Payne Cup, a traveling Stanley-Cup-like trophy that is presented each year to the solo winner. The winner gets to take the trophy home for the year but must pass it on to next year’s winner. Remo Spagnol became the 2023 caretaker of the Andy Payne Cup.
The Route 66 UltraRun prides itself on holding the best awards banquet in racing, and in presenting the Mace Spirit Award, won by cinematographer Rick Baraff, and the Dr. Bob Suffering with Grace Award, won by Dan Marinsik.