Mongollon Monster 100 mile Ultramarathon
Interview: Race Director Jeremy Dougherty
Jerry: Good morning Jeremy, thank you for taking the time to share a bit about the new Arizona ultra 100 miler, the Mongollon Monster 100! It looks like an ominous and challenging race! Tell us about this creature…the “Mogollon Monster!”
Jeremy: Interestingly enough, I thought of this name simply because after finalizing the route concept, knowing the route, the technicality of it all, I thought, “This is going to be a Monster!” Being located on the Mogollon Rim region of Arizona, it made sense. Only later to discover there is in fact, a “Mogollon Monster”, a Bigfoot, of sorts, that has been spotted roaming the parts for the last 100 years. Hilarity ensued and the name stuck. Since then it’s been even more fun coming up with the logo so we’ve incorporated it into the race itself. They even taped the reality show, “Finding Bigfoot” in town just last month with dozens of reported sightings happening right along the race course…so maybe it’s not a joke after all?? Either way, we’re sticking with it!
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Jerry: I love it! The mind games of a sleep-deprived 100 runner in the middle of the night will totally welcome the idea of a Mongollon Monster lurking the bushes! Way to go!
So, I’m “most people”…and most people think Arizona is just flat and hot… Where exactly does this race take place? Seriously, where did you so cleverly find a rugged mountain course in the state of Arizona?
Jeremy: You know, that is exactly why I wanted to do this location. Many people, some Arizona natives included, don’t fully realize the diversity of Arizona, the sheer beauty that is within reach nearly any direction you travel. Arizona is the sixth largest state, has 90 Wilderness areas and over 26 peaks over 10,000 feet and more mountains and summits than any other Mountain state. Surprising statistics for those thinking we’re just sand dunes and Steve Nash. While maybe not full of snow- capped 14’ers, it does lend to the geographic diversity we do have.
The Mogollon Rim where the race takes place is a 2,000 ft escarpment making up the southernmost portion of the Colorado Plateau. It’s massive and starkly beautiful as it juts out of the earth, high desert red rocks below, lush, green pine/maple/oak above. All while only 90 minutes northeast of Phoenix. For many Arizona residents this area around Payson/Pine, AZ is an escape from the summer heat, out of the desert and into the Ponderosa pine forests of the Rim Country. It can be 110 degrees in Phoenix, 90 minute drive later its 73 degrees on the Rim at nearly 8,000 ft. After running the last two Zane Grey 50 Milers along the Mogollon Rim I really wanted to create a 100 mile race that would really show the diversity of the state and the challenging and beautiful terrain we can offer the ultra community. So I worked with local Arizona ultrarunner Jeff Jones in creating a route that could do just that. Difficult, challenging, varying terrain, elevation, climbing, fast sections, wicked downhills. We’ve got just about everything on this course, it’s going to be unique, beautiful and will almost certainly leave people with a whole new perspective on what Arizona really looks like!
Jerry: You had me at monster! Ok, so I’m very intrigued because I honestly though Arizona was sand dunes. (My sincere apologies to the other mountain people of Arizona.) So, let’s get real here Mr. Race Director…There are many ultras now….what makes the Mogollon Monster 100 different? What awesome adventure awaits the entrants of this epic inaugural race?!
Jeremy: When I started the planning for this race there were 86 100 milers in existence. Throughout this process the Zion 100, Mark Twain 100 and a few others have sprouted at the same time. Each providing a regional niche, a unique opportunity to run a beautiful part of our country. We’re not trying to break new ground with this race, not trying to break the mold of ultrarunning but instead try and stay true to the simplistic nature of the sport. I know we have a course that will really challenge all runners of all abilities. With 18,000+ feet of climbing that’s not breaking any records but it’ll feel a heck of a lot more than 18,000 by the time everyone is done. Our terrain is unforgiving, brutally relentless and the sun is unwavering. Our local ultra community is very excited about this race, not many days go by I don’t get an email about how excited someone is to volunteer for this race simply because the area where the race is held is so special to them for one reason or another. I love volunteering at ultras, I love being that guy that is cheering runners on a half mile away with a caffeinated enthusiasm only a tired runner can fully appreciate. We’re going to have a lot of energy at the aid stations, lots of enthusiasm. As excited as I am for runners to see the course, experience the area, I think the amazing volunteers we have here are really going to be the impacting force in their memories on the drive home.
Jerry: In terms of the course difficulty, terrain, and experience, how would you rate this course compared to other new trail 100s?
Jeremy: In terms of other new trail 100’s I don’t think there is anything out there nearly as difficult. With all due respect to the other new races I don’t think they have the climbing alone to be the same arena. They very well may be difficult in their own respect but this race, this will be a Top 10 difficulty for ALL 100’s out there right now. Hopefully that doesn’t come off as anything other than what it is meant to be… An honest characterization of the course.
Zane Grey 50 is renowned for its difficulty and repeatedly is won by elites barely closing in on 8 hour finishes. While the Monster only shares 34 miles on the Highline Trail with Zane Grey it has many other trails much harder than the Highline. The Myrtle Trail & Donahue Trail will be trails people will be talking about after the race without question. The fact that runners will hit Geronimo Aid station, click over their watch to 100.00 Miles then climb 2,000 feet in the next 2.2 miles only to then drop back down that same amount a half mile later? That’s going to be tough and it’s going to take a bit more to get through than a lot of races out there.
Jerry: Love it! I understand you are going to run the entire course in May? That is awesome…hands-on, old school, race directing. Please share your thoughts about what this race means to you. What would you like to hear people say as they limp around in the finisher’s area after defeating the Mogollon Monster?
Jeremy: I think running the course is very important for a lot of reasons but mostly for simply knowing I’m not putting anyone through anything I didn’t do myself first. We’ll be doing it self-supported, scouting the parts of the trail that need more attention to course marking, clearing, etc. It’s easy to mark a course when it’s light out and you are fresh and awake. It’s another thing to see the trail at 80 miles in, struggling, falling asleep and wondering…”Is it down that ridge or was it along those maples? And what the hell is that hairy ape thing doing out here??!”
Jerry: Wait, What?! Sorry…go ahead.
Jeremy: While this is certainly a wilderness run, with extended periods of solitude, we also want to keep everyone on the trail and safe. So we are putting a lot of emphasis on that. Many people have shared their reservations with me openly about avoiding first year races. I can certainly understand that and have gone out of my way to contact a lot of new ultra race directors and learn a lot of their challenges they had initially and hopefully through extra planning, and their generous sharing of information, we can avoid a lot of those expected hiccups this first year and start off with a bang.
To me, having everyone back at the finish safe, tired and smiling will be a dream. There are not many feelings greater than the one of crossing a finish line, fanfare or not, after finishing an intensely difficult challenge of both the mental and physical. I really want to put on that chance for people both in Arizona and nationally, let people see what this state has to offer, show them some incredible trails, amazing volunteers and cross that finish line for one well deserved buckle. I think with what we are offering with this race, we’ll accomplish just that.