Drake and Costales win the USATF Marathon Trail Championships

Rachel Drake (Portland, OR) and Anthony Costales (Salt Lake City, UT – pictured above) win the 2018 USATF Marathon Trail Championships hosted by American Trail Running Association member Moab Trail Marathon. Drake & Costales earn automatic spots on Team USA to compete at the 16th World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Villa La Angostura, Argentina, November 16, 2019.

It is tough to find a more scenic venue than that of the Moab Trail Marathon, which hosted the fifth consecutive USATF Marathon Trail Championships on Saturday, November 3. As the sun illuminated the canyon floor below and a radiating glow danced on the mesa ridgelines overhead, some 600 runners set out on a challenging course complete with 3600 feet of climbing in Moab, Utah.

There would be sandy patches, single track trail, gravel road sections, creek crossings, and the infamous Moab slick rock in store for the competitors with elevations on course ranging from 3800 to 5200 feet.

As a very lively band of six local musicians played, race director Danelle Ballengee issued the 3-2-1 countdown for the eight o’clock a.m. start. The race leaders went through mile one in well under six minutes with Andy Wacker, 30, Boulder, CO, Morgan Elliott, 26, Montreat, NC, and Anthony Costales, 30, Salt Lake City, UT, in the mix.

Slick-rock scenery along the Moab Trail Marathon course.

Through the early stages of the race, there were several lead changes with Elliott attempting to win his first national title, but it was not to be. Wacker was first to the 10.7-mile aid station along a gravel road with Elliott just seconds back. The pair headed on an out-and-back section on single track and after the turnaround, Elliott had taken the lead. Wacker was not far behind when they reached the gravel road at about the 12-mile mark, with Costales in third.

Within five miles, the race landscape changed for Elliott. “My nutrition game went south,” he said. “After a pretty fast opening mile, Andy pulled away at mile two. I was consistently 20 seconds behind. I passed Andy at about mile 12 and he caught up to me and we ran together on the road. I was feeling OK, and I thought I was still in it.

“During climb at mile 17, the wheels came off. I came to a stop,” Elliott said. “I didn’t feel good. Andy pulled away and then Anthony came up from behind and passed me. At that point…game over. My race turned into a long training run.”

Andy Wacker (Boulder, CO) enroute to 2nd place.

Wacker led through 22 miles, with Costales hot on his heels. In the last 5K of the race, there was a battle for the victory as Costales was fast approaching. “Andy went out hard and I thought I needed to be patient,” said Costales. “I thought I’d be caught up by 14 (miles), but I wasn’t. I wasn’t in competitive mode, but once I got up and over the climb, I just kind of woke up a bit more and definitely felt more alive.

“I had a lot of ground to make up and Andy wasn’t slowing down,” continued Costales. “He probably had about a minute lead on me in the last three miles, but once we hit the road, I was really close.”

Costales went on to win with a time of 2:59:17, just 22 seconds ahead of Wacker, earning both a spot in the sub-three hour club for the course, joining Azerya Weldemariam and Sage Canaday who went 1-2 respectively in 2016 with times of 2:58:01 and 2:58:25. “I’m happy with our times,” said Costales, who was runner-up last year and fourth in 2016. “My fitness is really good. This race kind of sparked me up.“ That spark will hopefully continue for Costales’s next race, the California International Marathon (CIM), on December 2.

Costales also earned a spot on next years’ USATF Long Distance Mountain Running Team scheduled to compete in Argentina on November 16, 2019.

Unlike Costales, Wacker was a newcomer to the course and shared his thoughts on the race, “I wouldn’t say the start was too hard. I usually go out pretty fast, but I ran an even effort through to the end. Anthony just ran like a maniac – in a good way. He looked so good at that last part. I was running, and he was racing.”

Of the course Wacker said, “It’s a great, challenging course. Up and down, sandy, rocky – it’s a good course to run and the scenery is really nice. My favorite part was the top of the climb because you could look down and have this amazing view of the canyon below.”

Rounding out the top three was relative newcomer to the trails, Travis Fuller, 29, Salt Lake City, UT, who finished in 3:11:04. Eliliott, who got off to a great start, faded to 11th with a time of 3;28:24. There was a hotly contested race for the masters’ title with Olivier Vrambout, 44, Bayport, MN, edging out the charging Chris Grauch, 46, Nederland, CO, by just 26 seconds at the line with Vrambout the victor in 3:35:53.

Other age group winners on the men’s side included Ted MacMahon, 52, Andover, MA, in 3:55:28, Dan Nielsen, 57, Avon, CO, 4:16:34, Richard Fargo, 60, Chatham, MA, 4:40:09, Randall Emmons, 66, Alamosa, CO, 5:46:07, and Bill Faulkner, 77, Broomfield, CO, 7:58:11.

Rachel Drake at the mile 11 stream crossing.

In the women’s race, Rachel Drake, 27, Portland, OR, won in her debut effort in Moab leading for most every step of the race posting a time of 3:36:10. The MD/PhD student, who is doing her thesis on neonatal metabolism at Oregon Health and Science University, said, “I wanted to qualify for the World Team. I didn’t know who was going to be on the start line, but I saw a lot of familiar names and I thought I’d be happy with top five. I was really surprised at the win.

“For the past three weeks, I’ve been coached by my partner. He just gave me a lot of confidence and my training was more focused and more structured. I’d never done that before,” she said. “I’m really excited about getting the spot for Argentina. It will be my first USA team.”

Tara Richardson at mile 11.

As to Drake’s favorite part of the course, “It was all really great,” she said. “The second climb – the steeper one – was really beautiful when we crested the top. I loved how technical it was. Everyone’s been so helpful and nice,” Drake said. “The volunteers and other runners were so supportive and kind. I’m so grateful.” That gratitude extended to the Territory Running Company in her hometown of Portland, and Hoka One One for whom she is an ambassador.

In second place timed in 3:43:38, was Tara Richardson, 27, Glenwood Springs, CO. “I was in sixth for most of the race,” said Richardson. “I felt really bad. I just maintained, and passed third place on the big climb, and then I caught Stevie (Kremer) coming down the climb. I was running pretty scared because I could see Stevie.

“The last 5K I was hurting and I knew she was coming,” said Richardson. “Once I got to the road I was pretty confident I knew I could finish with a good pace. I’m not a technical runner. This is my first year trail running. I’m training for CIM and it’s hard to train for both road and trail, but I want to show people you can do both.

“I was hoping for a top five,” continued Richardson. “So, I’m very happy with my finish and Rachel was long gone.”

Kremer, 34, Crested Butte, CO, took the third spot in 3:44:14. First in the masters’ division was Janel Lanphere, 42, Flagstaff, AZ, timed in 5:01:05.

Other age group winners on the women’s side included Susan Kendrick, 56, Hayward, WI, in a time of 6:19:55, Anita Rawlinson, 62, Red Lodge, MT, 5:55:22, and Virgina Egger, 65, Edwards, CO, 7:00:12.

The top five women and top five men overall, along with the top masters’ man and woman, shared a prize purse of $4800. For the top five, the breakdown was $700-$500-$400-$300-$200, and the top masters each earned $300.

Top 10 women & men in the USATF Championship.

Said USATF liaison to the event, Lin Gentling, Rochester, MN, “Stunning scenery, ideal weather, great camaraderie, and top-notch race management contributed to an outstanding championship event in Moab. More than 70 registered USATF participants led to a highly competitive event across all age groups.”

The top 2 women & men at the Moab Trail Marathon participated in WADA certified anti-doping tests conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). This is the second USATF off-road championship in 2018 to have WADA certified anti-doping tests after six athletes were tested at the USATF Mountain Running Championships in Lincoln, NH this past July. The USATF Mountain, Ultra & Trail Running Council is hoping to double the number of anti-doping tests for 2019.

USATF Championship Liaison Lin Gentling with winners Rachel Drake and Anthony Costales.

In addition to the marathon, there was also a half marathon, an adventure 5K and a kids’ 1K. These events on Saturday, November 3, would be followed up on Sunday November 4, with another trail half marathon to make a festive weekend for more than 2100 runners. Complete race results from the weekend can be viewed here.