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Trail racing returns with Squaw Peak 50 in Utah

The 50-miler was the first big trail race since the start of the pandemic, and Hayden Hawks took the win and course record

Photo by: Twitter/MountainRoche

The running season has been on hold since March, and almost all of this year’s spring races were cancelled or postponed. Racing has recently made a slow return in some European countries, and there have been socially-distanced track meets in the U.S. June 13 marked the return of trail races with the Squaw Peak 50-mile trail race in Utah. To make the event safer for all participants, race organizers made a few changes to the run format, including a staggered start to the 50-mile run. After just over seven hours of racing, Hayden Hawks of Utah won the race, breaking the course record along the way.

The winning run

Hawks won the race in 7:28 to beat the 18-year-old Squaw Peak course record, which Karl Meltzer set in 2002 when he ran 7:35. While many runners have been trying to merely maintain fitness during the pandemic, Hawks clearly made some quarantine gains, and after the win, he posted on Instagram, writing, “the lockdown training paid off.”

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Hawks has become a big name in the ultrarunning community over the last few years, with his first win coming in 2016. Ever since, he has been a dominant force in some of the biggest ultras in the U.S. and abroad. His resume includes a first-place finish at the 101K UTMB-CCC in 2017, two wins at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120K in Italy in 2017 and 2018, a Chuckanut 50K win in 2019 (a race where he was just 31 seconds off of the course record) and two other race wins in 2020. He kept his undefeated record for the year with his win on Saturday, but due to COVID-19, it’s uncertain when he’ll have a chance to go for his fourth win of 2020.

A return to racing

For a long time, it looked like the 2020 race season might not resume, but as the curve of COVID-19 has slowly been flattened around the world, several races have been run. Most of these races were professional events with limited fields, like the Impossible Games in Norway. The Squaw Peak 50 was one of the first public races to return in the U.S., and Hawks wrote on Instagram to commend the race organizers for the care they took with the run, which he said was a “safe and responsible race with social distancing procedures.”

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If the pandemic continues to die down, there may be some hope for more races to return this summer and fall. The Squaw Peak 50 was run with a staggered start, aid station restrictions and many other rules, and this will likely have to be the case for any other races that come back in 2020, but some racing is better than none, and runners will be excited to get back on the course as soon as possible.