Stage Races – Plenty of Miles in Just a Few Days


Whether you’re in search of a new challenge or a weekend training block for your next 100-miler, a multi-day stage race is the perfect way to check both off your to-do list. While many races like TransRockies in Colorado promise high altitude mountain running over a 6-day period, others offer a more manageable 3-day, weekend-long adventure with double-digit miles during the day and a festive, post-race atmosphere in the evening. With a little extra preparation stage races can be the perfect a tool to test your fitness limits, as well as a place to hang with like-minded athletes.

If the 120-mile TransRockies course seems like too much of a commitment, try their GU3 which is a point-to-point race on the same course packed with 58.6 miles and 8,400 feet of elevation gain over three days. Run, eat and camp with all TransRockies runners from the start at Buena Vista, Colorado where you’ll run an average of 20 miles per day through the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The GU3 finishes at historic Camp Hale after leaving Leadville on day 3. TransRockies runners get to tie their laces and leave any worries about camp logistics behind as event organizers will move gear, set up camp and cook all food for hungry runners at the day’s end. This abbreviated version of the race allows participants to focus on the mileage while carrying minimal gear.

East coasters can escape to Tennessee and run in the mountains where three days of challenging terrain awaits at the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race. Registered runners will traverse a total of 60 miles and three different mountain trails, and return to race headquarters each evening where free beer and post-race festivities allow for a little R & R. With technical single track, steep climbs, creek crossings and rope ascents, this scenic stage race has a little something for everyone.

If you’d rather tackle a stage race that pushes you past your comfort zone and onto desert sands, try the Trans-Pecos Ultra in southern Texas. Runners will cover 170 miles and over 15,000 of elevation gain in six days, traversing the extreme desert climate of Big Bend National Park. Made up of a whopping 801,000 acres intersected with deep canyons formed by the Rio Grande River, this race is self-supported with event organizers providing water at each aid station. Runners will sleep in group tents at night, without access to electricity or running water between each stage. And you can forget cell coverage – Big Bend National Park is remote. What you will get is an opportunity to challenge yourself in the pure elements during the day, and play witness to some of the darkest skies at night, perfect for stargazing.  While the event’s website states this stage race is open to “novice outdoor enthusiasts,” it also requires participants to obtain a travel health insurance policy prior to starting the event.

With typical multi-day stage races pushing an average of 20 miles per day, these high mileage events offer an extended challenge with a more social experience. While similar to running camps, these races keep their competitive edge by offering awards to top finishers after the final legs.


About Author

Amy Clark is the Editor of UltraRunning Magazine. She began her career at a small advertising agency in Bend, Oregon, where she enjoyed the fast pace and creative environment. For over 15 years, lunch hour runs were a ritual. Amy also joined the board of the local running club, became a race director and finished her first ultra. She has completed over 35 marathons and ultras combined, and continues to run long distances while encouraging both kids and adults to ignite their own passion for running.

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