Ultrarunner Michael Versteeg of Prescott, Ariz., won the inaugural Cocodona 250-miler on Thursday morning, crossing the finish line in Flagstaff after 72 hours of racing. Versteeg finished ahead of Flagstaff local Peter Mortimer, who is still in the final miles of his run toward second place. Maggie Guterl is currently the top woman in the race, and at the time of writing, she completed 228 miles (366K) of what event organizers describe as a “250ish-mile footrace,” which works out to a total of about 400K. Guterl sits in seventh overall.
This is the inaugural running of the Cocodona 250, which was organized by the team at Aravaipa Running. The race started in Black Canyon City, about an hour north of Phoenix. From there, runners travelled north, passing through multiple towns (including Versteeg’s hometown of Prescott) before eventually making it to Flagstaff, 1,500m higher above sea level than where the race started. In total, the race features close to 13,000m of elevation gain, which is like running the height of one and a half Mount Everests.
The uphill battle, the heat of the desert and the sheer distance of the race didn’t stop Versteeg, who was at the front of the race throughout the 400K journey. This isn’t Versteeg’s first time stamping his name in the history books, as he won Aravaipa Running’s inaugural Whiskey Man Series in 2016 as well. On top of that, he has recorded many other ultramarathon race wins.
Among the chase group (which is the rest of the Cocodona field, as Versteeg is the only finisher so far) is Guterl, who is in seventh place and currently being paced to the finish by fellow American ultrarunning star Courtney Dauwalter. Guterl and Dauwalter know each other well, and earlier this year, they both competed at the Barkley Marathons (although, like everyone else at this year’s race, they registered DNFs).
Like Dauwalter, Guterl is well known in the world of ultrarunning, and she has several big race wins to her name, including Big’s Backyard Ultra in 2019. Now, Guterl is looking to add another win to her resume, and with a 16K lead on the second-place woman Jessi Morton-Langehaug, the Cocodona crown is hers to lose.
Also racing this week was Gene Dykes, a 73-year-old runner from Pennsylvania who owns multiple age group records, including the American 100-mile and 24-hour bests (21:06:07 and 179.98K). Unfortunately, Dykes didn’t make it to the finish line, and he (along with close to 60 other runners, so far) recorded a DNF.
The race is ongoing, and despite the many DNFs, there are still dozens of other runners on the course making their way to the finish. To track live results of the Cocodona 250, click here.