Have you heard that 200 is the new 100? Maybe you’re like me and can’t wrap your head around people actually wanting to run 200 miles! Or maybe you are out there thinking…400 is actually the new 200 and you truly aren’t playing an April Fool’s prank. https://www.trailrunnermag.com/people/culture-people/humor-culture-people/opinion-400s-are-the-new-200s/
Regardless if you have run an ultra, are simply fascinated by the ultra world, or have no idea what an ultra is, you’ve got to be intrigued to know a little bit more about the Moab 240 Endurance Run!
Let’s give a brief history of the race.
The Moab 240, founded by race director Candice Burt, held its inaugural race in 2017. However, it's more than just an ultramarathon; it's a tribute to the late Stephen Jones, a passionate ultrarunner whose dream of a 200-mile race in Utah became a reality. Stephen's profound passion for ultrarunning, evident in his fondness for the Bigfoot 200 and the Tahoe 200, ignited Candice Burt's ambitious journey to create the Moab 240. Stephen's belief that "200 is the new 100" resonated deeply, but his life was tragically cut short during a backcountry skiing accident in 2016. His spirit lives on through the Moab 240.
The course is an extraordinary test of endurance, covering a staggering distance of 240 miles through the captivating landscapes of Moab, Utah. It forms a massive single loop, impressively free from repetition. Along the way, runners face a challenging total elevation gain and loss of 31,564 feet. With a demanding 116-hour cutoff time, the race offers four sleep stations equipped with full aid, hot meals, medical assistance, and access for support crews. Additionally, there are 15 full aid stations, each providing hot food, medical support, and more. With the race taking place in the Utah desert in the month of October, a unique challenge the runners face is the extreme temperature fluctuations.
The Moab 240 has had some big name runners in its six years. First and foremost is the one and only Courtney Dauwalter. She currently still holds the female course record at 57:55. Despite the fact she finished 10 hours before any other runner, she may be more famous for her hallucinations during the second night of the race. “I saw a leopard in a hammock that looked pretty comfortable.” The current male record holder, Michael Mcknight, almost quit at mile 72 but kept going due to the tough love of his wife who got in their truck and drove away so he would have to run the next 52 miles before seeing her again.
photo credit: Howie Stern
In no way less significant are all the other brave souls who toe the starting line of the Moab 240 and for a wide variety of reasons do not finish.
Jacky Hunt-Broersma is one of these incredible humans. She is a cancer survivor and amputee who is a Guiness World Record holder of 104 marathons in 104 days. In a post on Instagram Jacky wrote, “ Yes it stings and yes I did cry, but I'm so incredibly grateful for this journey and having the courage to give it a try even if I could fail.”
This year, we are excited to see Sally McRae aka The Yellowrunner aiming to complete the “Grand Slam of 200s” with the Moab 240 being her final race. What a feat!
photo credit: Anastasia Wilde
But today we would like to highlight one of Squak Mountain Co.’s founders, Bennet Murch who will be participating in this year's Moab 240 Ultra Race. Bennet Murch, a Steamboat Springs, CO resident, is no stranger to long, grueling challenges. While Bennet is not one to flaunt his own achievements, he placed 1st at the Ozark Foothills 100 and 3rd at the Tahoe 200 race in 2022. He has thru- hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. We are STOKED to cheer Bennet on in Moab next weekend and thought we’d ask him to answer a few questions about his ultrarunning journey.
photo credit: Jason Peters
- The Moab 240 is an iconic race. What motivated you to take on this incredible challenge?
My interest in the Moab 240 is a natural progression of sorts from previous adventures, particularly thru-hiking on the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. I’ve always been intrigued by feats of extreme endurance and testing one’s mental limits, and it’s a great way to spend long days on trails without having to stop working for months at a time. When I paced my good friend at Moab in 2021 I knew I would attempt it someday.
- What's the allure of the Moab 240 for you personally?
The Moab 240 covers an incredible course, and draws a lot of folks with a similar mentality when it comes to trail running, adventure, and testing of limits. I enjoy the community of ultrarunners, and with the support system of the Destination Trails, it’s a perfect avenue to really test myself.
- Can you share some insights into your training regimen leading up to the race? What does a typical training week look like for you?
My training has been very unstructured most of this year, which is quite a contrast to 2022. Leading up to Tahoe 200 last year I was dealing with some injuries, some of which I think were exacerbated by running on roads all winter. This year I took a different approach and focused on a mixed strength/interval training program through the winter and spring to shore up my body and become more durable. I worked a very physical job this summer and mostly ran on weekends, which were typically 3-6 hours at a time and mimicked race pace. The longest training day I did was a 39-mile effort with full gear to practice my pacing and fueling tactics.
- What do you anticipate being the most challenging aspects of this race, both physically and mentally?
Getting going after a nap!
Physically, I’m anticipating sleep deprivation to be the most difficult challenge during Moab. Also, I had breathing issues at Tahoe in 2022 that were frightening at some point and nearly caused me to drop. I’m worried that this could happen again.
Staying present mentally and keeping a positive mental attitude through low points will probably be the biggest mental challenges.
- Do you have a race strategy in mind? How do you plan to tackle those challenges?
My strategy is to move consistently and minimize my stopping time. I am not a particularly fast runner, but I can walk fast and for a long time. My experience thru-hiking helped my learn to deal with long-term discomfort while fueling on the move, and utilizing that experience to get in and out of aid stations will be helpful.
My strategy for staying positive is to fake it until I make it. I’ve learned that smiling and laughing during low points can be helpful for guarding against negative thought spirals.
- Nutrition is crucial in ultramarathons. Can you talk about your nutrition plan for the race? What foods and supplements will you rely on?
My general rule is to eat as much as I can. I plan for 300-400 calories per hour between aid stations, and a lot of those now come in the form of liquid calories. I like Skratch Lab’s Superfuel mix, which isn’t super sweet but has a lot of calories. Spring energy gels are also a staple. When I hit aid stations I’ll eat as much as I can - probably broth, mashed potatoes, soda, quesadillas. For electrolytes I’ll be using a DIY mix that mimics LMNT.
- How have you selected your gear and clothing to suit the unpredictable conditions of the Moab desert?
The weather could swing wildly at Moab, so I’m planning to be equipped for anything between a sub-20 degree snowstorm and 90 degree heat. Think base layer, insulation layer, shell, emergency shelter. Aside from the required gear, I’ll be carrying our Alpha UL hoodie as an insulation layer that I expect to wear during the night and up in the mountainous sections. I’m a bit of a minimalist runner/hiker, so I carry what will keep me alive, not necessarily comfortable.
- Ultramarathons often test one's mental fortitude. How do you plan to stay motivated and focused during moments of fatigue or doubt?
This is one of my favorite aspects of long distance endeavors. I enjoy playing mind games with myself, breaking up the race into micro-goals, and repeating mantras. I often draw on my past experiences from athletics, thru-hikes, and heavy manual labor jobs to remind myself of my strength and tenacity.
- Have you developed any mental strategies to overcome setbacks and keep moving forward?
I call this the inner flame exercise. When I’m pushing hard through setbacks or turbulence in my focus, I imagine a candle burning. I picture a steady flame despite fierce winds, and that helps me to stay calm and accept whatever challenge I’m experiencing.
- Will you have a support crew with you? How important is their role in your race?
Yes, my parents, brother, and girlfriend will crew me this year. They play a very important role in getting me out of aid stations in a timely manner with everything I need for the next section of the course. It can be difficult to make good decisions and stay efficient when sleep-deprived, and my crew is crucial in keeping me in check when I resupply.
- What are your primary goals for the Moab 240? Is it about finishing, competing, or achieving a specific time?
My primary goal for Moab is to finish while pushing myself as much as possible. I think sub-70 hours is a good personal goal. Competition is secondary, although I won’t deny that I am a competitive runner and will harness that power if I find myself in a position to compete.
- Have you set any personal milestones or expectations for yourself?
Surpassing 205 miles will be a new personal record for how far I’ve gone in one push. I expect myself to embrace the challenges and continue forward in a calm, confident, and relentless manner.
- Once you complete the Moab 240, what's next for you in your ultrarunning journey? Any other races or challenges on the horizon?
I have no idea in terms of races. I’ve been feeling the itch to thru-hike some more, and will undoubtedly stew on that all winter. I have a couple of ideas in mind, but who knows yet.
- What advice do you have for aspiring ultrarunners looking to take on extreme races like the Moab 240?
One: accept that your body and mind are capable of so much more than you believe. The lows are inevitable in long distances, but if you are diligent in fueling and hydrating you will eventually come out of those hard moments.
Two: Normalize the outrageous and break things up into micro-goals. Pretend you live in a universe where covering 240 miles in a few days is as normal as running a 5k. Convince yourself you crave the discomfort. And don’t think about the next 190 miles, just think about getting to the next aid station
In a little over a week we get to see Bennet put these words into action with all the other courageous ultra runners at the 2023 Moab 240 Endurance Race! Use the link below to follow Bennet and all the race participants. https://www.destinationtrailrun.com/moab