Runners start the race in the dark on a chilly fall morning, many heading off for more than 12 hours on the trail.
The scene is lighted with the orange glow of mercury vapor lights flooding the grass in front of the lodge at Ski Santa Fe. The runners’ headlamps are bright white lights bobbing into the darkness down the trail. It will be at least an hour before the sun starts to brighten the eastern horizon. The second Ultra Santa Fe is Saturday, Sept. 2, over Labor Day weekend.
At the inaugural race last year, more than 200 runners from 14 states and two countries traveled the trails in the Santa Fe National Forest, Santa Fe County open space and Santa Fe’s Dale Ball Trail System.
This year’s race uses many of the popular trails above Santa Fe, starting and finishing at the host Ski Santa Fe. Racers cover either
50 miles, 50 kilometers (31 miles), 13 miles or one mile straight up two black diamond ski runs. Most of the trails are within the boundaries of the Santa Fe National Forest, and one of those, the Winsor National Recreation trail, is like the spine of the courses. The courses connect and diverge from this trail, adding side loops to aid stations. Fifty-mile and 50-kilometer racers climb up this trail from very close to the bottom and reach the trailhead near Tesuque. Then, runners enter the Bear Wallow/Borrego Triangle and another aid station.
The three longer-distance races follow the steep and rocky Rio En Medio Trail from Ski Santa Fe along a creek. Half-marathon racers turn off quickly onto the Winsor National Recreation trail and head for the Big Tesuque Trail and campground where they will find their first aid station.
There will be chairlift rides, live music, a beer garden and food available for spectators at La Casa Lodge at Ski Santa Fe. Trail maps and more information can be found at www.ultrasantafe.com or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @ultrasantafe.
If you go
When: Saturday, Sept. 2
Where: Ski Santa Fe
Races: 50 miler stars at 4 a.m.; 50K starts at
7 a.m.; 13 miler starts at 10 a.m.; and uphill mile starts at noon, with a free chairlift ride down.