Buffalo Run 100 Mile | Utah | 2015
Where the Buffalo Roam
By Gary Dudney
Unique location, unique wildlife, unique logistics, the Buffalo Run 100 Mile is a wholly unique and satisfying experience. The course tours Antelope Island, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, and features sweeping views of the lake, of Salt Lake City, the Wasatch Mountains and of course the eponymous buffalo, which are scattered along the course and stolidly stand guard over the proceedings.
The 100 Miler is the centerpiece of the Antelope Island races, which also include 50 mile, 50K, and 25K distances with close to a thousand runners altogether cruising the trails during the weekend. An unusual twelve noon start on Friday for the 100 milers puts them on the final thirty mile segment of the trail on Saturday morning as the fifty milers whip by offering heartfelt encouragement and praise. Not a bad deal for the 100 milers.
The frequent buffalo sightings are a highlight of the race although the noble animals seem a bit bored as if being an iconic emblem of the Old West is more exciting for the viewer rather than the viewee. We were warned to give them their personal space—no European style kisses on the cheek for example—and to not look them in the eye. The only time I got really close a group of them were crossing the trail and they all scattered like cattle when I approached. We were also warned of a wayward boar that was seen hanging around but then “reassured” that it was nocturnal, which meant if we saw it, it would be during the very dark, moonless night. Good for star-gazing, not good for boar encountering.
The island’s antelope and bighorn sheep were nowhere to be seen although at one point I thought I was looking at a whole group of Pronghorns, but they turned out to be some cleverly distinguished rock formations. The rocks would have been more convincing if they’d moved around a little.
The first part of the course visits the spine of mountains on the island and includes some tricky footing but rewards with great views of Split Rock Bay and White Rock Bay. Then runners take a long pass down and back along the Salt Lake City side of the island on mostly flat, easy trail through the dry, native grasslands that made the island perfect for ranching before it became a state park in 1981. The two segments get you fifty miles and are repeated to make one hundred.
Plentiful aid stations offered excellent and friendly support throughout the day and night and day. The oft visited Start/Finish area boasted a huge tent that was blessedly warm at night and full of helpful volunteers. You could sit down and be served and not have to get back up until somebody came along to make sure you got back up.
Utah just seems to have an endless supply of great 100 mile courses. The Buffalo Run is certainly one of them. Also with its mild weather, good trails, and moderate elevation change, it’s one of the more “doable” one hundred milers in the state.