Approximately 1,200 Registered Runners Converge at The 2023 Desert Rats Trail Running Festival By UTMB as UTMB World Series Continues In The United States

April 17, 2023

Brian Whitfield (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Meghan Cihasky (Durango, Colo.) victorious in 50K race; Craig Hunt (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Arden Young (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) were also winners of the alternative 50K race at 2023 Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB®

FRUITA, Colo. (April 17, 2023) /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the UTMB World Series continued with the 2023 Desert RATS (Running Across the Sand) Trail Running Festival Series by UTMB® offering both exhilarating trail running and breathtaking scenery in western Colorado. Both elite and passionate runners from around the United States and the globe flocked to the Hawkeye Trailhead in Fruita, Colorado to take on four demanding courses of 50K, 42K, 25K and 10K. Runners traversed the famous Kokopelli Trail, climbing up ridgelines with endless views and running along the Colorado river or through the Western Rim via windy singletrack at this famous celebration of trail running.

On Saturday, the 50K and 42K (marathon) runners took to the Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB® course. It was Brian Whitfield (Colorado Springs, Colo.) taking the victory in the men’s 50K race with a time of 3:31:19. Arnaud Bronin finishing in 3:35:06 came home second while Jeffrey Colt with a time of 3:39:15 finished third. Meghan Cihasky (Durango, Colo.) finished first in the female 50K with a time of 4:14:35. Peyton Thomas led the race early but ultimately came home in second with a time of 4:15:09 and Gabriella Brinkley completed the course in 4:31:49 finished in third place.

“The race was awesome, it was super fun to have a competitive course and runners out there, including some young runners plus people from Europe. It was super fun to be out there,” said Brian Whitfield.

“The course was absolutely beautiful, just really lucky to be out there overlooking the river – it was magical,” said Meghan Cihasky.

A 100K distance was originally slated to take place on Friday of race weekend, however heavy rainfall in the area caused muddy and wet trail conditions. Out of an abundance of safety and the lack of accessibility to trails to deploy safety assets, race officials made the tough decision to cancel the Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB 100K. Participants that were scheduled for the 100K had the option to participate in a separate 50K race on Saturday.

Of the 100K registered runners that choose to run the alternative 50K event, Craig Hunt topped the males with a time of 3:39:45 while Jonathan Rea followed closely in second with a time of 3:41:27 and Yutaro Yokouchi rounded out the podium in third with a time of 3:52:53. On the female side, Arden Young (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) finished first with a time of 4:41:19, Michele Yates finished second just over six minutes behind with a time of 4:47:26 and Elena Ormon finished third with an overall time of 5:08:12.

“The race was great! It went exactly to my plan where I wanted to stay in control and conservative. I let the leaders open a gap if they wanted too but keep them within reach and made a strong move with about 3-miles to go and rolled on my teammate [Jonathan Rea] but I knew he had 100-mile strength, I just didn’t know what he had left and it worked out in my favor, said Craig Hunt.

“I came in expected to run the 100K but for reasons no one can control it was disappointing but the 50K course was beautiful and the trails were in really good condition considering the rain we had so glad we got out and had a fun day,” said Arden Young. “All the Mesa overlooks were actually really beautiful; you couldn’t look up too much or you’d trip over the rocks but a few times I looked up just to get the view.”

Top 3 female and male finishers of the two 50K races earned automatic qualification into the UTMB OCC, the 50K category final for the UTMB World Series.

While the 100K course is notoriously considered the queen stage, the other courses have just as much to offer. The 21K course has earned itself the title as one of the most scenic half marathons according to Active Magazine. Jeshurun Small with a finishing time of 1:23:23 and Tabor Hemming in 1:32:58 were the winners of the 21km.

Chris Sovacool was the men’s marathon/42K winner in a time of 3:38:55. Raquel Harper was the winner of the women’s marathon/42K race.

Mark Wilson 44:27 and Alexa Berstler 50:00 were the 10K winners on Sunday.

Living up to its reputation as an opportunity for those seeking a true trail running adventure, the 2023 Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB® treated runners of all abilities with a challenging but beautiful course. Positioned just outside Rattlesnake Canyon in Grand Junction, Fruita served as both a challenging and welcoming venue for the runners as they made the ascent along the red slickrock cliffs and wound around the Western Rim while taking in the exceptional beauty that can only be found on this course.

Competitors across all the events were also competing for the coveted Running Stones, earned by finishing their chosen course and which can be used to enter the lottery for the UTMB® World Series Finals at the UTMB® Mont-Blanc.

Presale for the 2024 Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB is now open by visiting, https://desertrats.utmb.world/.

Next Up for the UTMB® World Series:

UTMB® World Series is scheduled to continue in 2023 when the series makes its way to Auburn, California for the 2023 The Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB on April 28-29. To see the full schedule of UTMB® World Series events, visit www.utmb.world.

For more information about the Desert RATS Trail Running Festival by UTMB visit https://desertrats.utmb.world/. For more information about the 2023 UTMB® World Series visit www.utmb.world. Media-related inquiries may be directed to press@ironman.com.


UTMB® World Series

UTMB® World Series is the world’s ultimate trail-running circuit that unites the sport’s biggest stars and passionate runners through the best, leading international events in the most stunning locations.  Built on a passion for the mountains with sustainability at its heart, UTMB® World Series gives all trail runners the chance to experience the UTMB® adventure across the world, with events taking place across Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa and the Americas. It is the only place where runners can begin their quest to UTMB® Mont-Blanc, France, where the prestigious UTMB® World Series Finals will be held. For more information, visit www.utmb.world.

About UTMB Group

Since the creation of UTMB® Mont-Blanc in 2003 by a group of passionate friends, UTMB Group has been the driving force behind the development of trail running. The UTMB® Mont-Blanc is the sports pinnacle event, and every year, 10,000 runners earn their place on the start line. UTMB Group also pioneered the LiveTrail® technology, an innovative digital service that supports the management of endurance races. Revered by hundreds of thousands of athletes, UTMB® has become a global, premium, and leading brand. In May 2021, UTMB Group partnered with The IRONMAN Group to launch the UTMB® World Series, which brings together many of the best international events on the planet to provide exclusive access to the sport’s pinnacle event, UTMB® Mont-Blanc. The UTMB® World Series is built on the founding principles of UTMB® Mont-Blanc: surpassing oneself; fair-play; respect for people and the environment; and solidarity. Find out more at www.utmb.world.

About The IRONMAN Group

The IRONMAN Group operates a global portfolio of events that includes the IRONMAN® Triathlon Series, the IRONMAN® 70.3® Triathlon Series, 5150™ Triathlon Series, the Rock ‘n’ Roll® Running Series, IRONKIDS® Seroes, World Triathlon Championship Series, premier running events including the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon™ and City2Surf®, UTMB® World Series events including the Canyons Endurance Runs™ by UTMB®, Tarawera Ultra by UTMB® and Ultra-Trail Australia™ by UTMB®, Epic Series™ mountain bike races including the Absa Cape Epic®, road cycling events including Haute Route®, and other multisport races. The IRONMAN Group is the largest operator of mass participation sports in the world and provides more than a million participants annually the benefits of endurance sports through the company’s vast offerings. Catering to the full athlete experience, the company portfolio also includes FulGaz® virtual cycling, the most realistic indoor riding experience connected fitness application aimed at preparing athletes for real-world events. Since the inception of the iconic IRONMAN® brand and its first event in 1978, athletes have proven that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE® by crossing finish lines around the world. Beginning as a single race, The IRONMAN Group has grown to become a global sensation with hundreds of events across 55+ countries. The IRONMAN Group is owned by Advance, a private, family-owned business. For more information, visit www.ironman.com/about-ironman-group.

About Advance 

Advance is a private, family-held business that owns and invests in companies across media, entertainment, technology, communications, education and other promising growth sectors. Our mission is to build the value of our companies over the long-term by fostering growth and innovation. Advance’s portfolio includes Condé Nast, Advance Local, Stage Entertainment, The IRONMAN Group, American City Business Journals, Leaders Group, Turnitin, 1010data and Pop. Together these operating companies employ more than 17,000 people in 29 countries. Advance is also among the largest shareholders in Charter Communications, Warner Bros. Discovery and Reddit. For more information visit www.advance.com.