Ragnar Wasatch Back 2011 has a few changes, challenges along the way

With Ragnar’s biggest and oldest race, The Wasatch Back, starting Friday, race directors have been working hard to make sure the entire route will be safe and accessible to all teams. With the wet weather Northern Utah has been receiving all spring, comes challenges that have been seen in the past, but not to this degree. Kent Phippen, who is taking over as Race Director next year, said the weather related problems have been handled over the past few months as springtime has brought more rain and snow to the course. Not too many of the changes have been in Cache County, the biggest change being where the race starts. Teams will meet at Utah State University’s Ralph Maughan Track and from there run to Park City High School, 192 miles away. The main changes have been made further down the course, Phippen said, starting with Old Snow Basin that has been “totally ruined” due to the weather. Instead, teams will be lead through Trappers Loop like in years past. Avon Pass is another route that has received a lot of precipitation but Phippen said they have been working with county officials to make it work. “Basically all the mountain passes have received so much rain and snow they are making us make changes to the course here and there,” he said. ” I don’t think we have ever seen a year when it has been so wet and snowy, it has been pretty crazy.” Ragnar started with a couple of Davis High School graduates in Kaysville, Utah and it has grown from the first race that had 22 teams, to this year’s race with 1050 teams. Compare that to the next largest race at only 500 teams and the Wasatch Back is “definitely the biggest one,” Phippen said. Most of the runners are from Utah, but about 15-20 percent are from other places. Phippen said because the Ragnar race series is growing all over the nation, more people are hearing about the Wastach Back and know it is the biggest and toughest race, and come to see what it is all about. “It’s a great way to introduce so many runners to places they may have never been or ran before, it’s a great tourist thing,” he said. Phippen has been the D.C. race director for the past year and a half and he said even though he has been able to see other pretty amazing courses, the Utah Wasatch Back is “by far one of the most beautiful courses that we have.” Despite the route changes, Phippen is confident the runners and teams will still be able to make “crazy unforgettable memories” with their families, coworkers and friends. “These changes will give people an opportunity to run a route they haven’t run in the years past and to be able to go out there and have fun and enjoy Utah’s beautiful scenery,” he said.

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