ST. GEORGE – Kerri Higley threw up her arms and cheered Saturday as she took her final few steps in the Red Mountain Ultramarathon.
“Woohoo, whoohoo,” she yelled. “I feel awesome. I’m so excited.”
Higley, 39, has run the St. George Marathon for the past five years. Now, she will try to make the Red Mountain Ultramarathon another annual run.
About 60 people from different areas in the country participated in the first Red Mountain 50K, said Jeremy Frehner, race director. He said many marathon runners are looking for the “next step” when they decide to test their athleticism and run an even longer race.
“It’s a test of determination, of conviction,” Frehner said. “It’s kind of like climbing a mountain because it’s there. You learn so much about yourself.”
Higley was no exception.
“You get in touch with yourself,” she said shortly after she crossed the finish line. “You are there for yourself the entire way.”
Higley’s husband, Jerry, and children, Travis and Natasha, were there to cheer for their favorite runner at the finish line.
Shaun Martin said he had never raced in a “big marathon.” But that didn’t stop him from being the first to finish Saturday’s race.
He finished the run in about three hours and 21 minutes.
“I wasn’t really worried what place I was in,” Martin said. “My goal was to run seven-minute miles throughout.”
His goal time was three hours and 36 minutes, he said.
Martin comes from a family of runners, said his mother, Lisa Martin, and he ran in his first race at 4 years old. To motivate him toward the finish line back then, Lisa Martin had to promise him a rabbit.
“He deserves a rabbit today,” she said.
For these runners, Saturday’s dark skies and colder temperatures were ideal.
“The weather was wonderful, and the trail was very well-marked,” Martin said.
The course began in Central and ended at Unity Park in Ivins, Frehner said. About 12 miles of the course were on trails, and the other 19 miles were on the road.
Frehner said he and three others Ð Adriane Frehner, Phil Packard and Scott Wood Ð decided to create an ultramarathon in St. George.
“This was our brainchild when we were out on the road,” Frehner said. “We have a passion for this.”
The race director said he and the other organizers would like to hold the second-annual Red Mountain 50K earlier in the spring.
Nephi Gold, a Southern Utah resident, finished second. Gold said he had run in 40- and 50-mile races before. He said running is like a drug. Some athletes need to run more and more to feel the same sense of accomplishment.
“I’ve done, like, 20 marathons,” Gold said. “You get to a point where (a marathon) just doesn’t do it for you.”
Runners “graduate” into ultramarathons, said Cole Galloway, another race finisher.
He said most “ultras” are on trails, which can be more interesting than road running.
Galloway said he’s heard of people racing in 100-mile and 250-mile races.
“You do a 50K, and then you start talking to people,” he said. “The human body has the potential to do these kinds of things.”