October 22, 2016 at 5:39 am
Michael Versteeg on the Arizona Trail. | Via Instagram (michael.versteeg)
A 31-year-old Arizona native this week shattered the record for traversing the Arizona Trail, which cuts across the state from north to south.
Michael Versteeg, an accomplished participant in ultramarathons and other long-distance running events, completed the 817-mile trail in 15 days, 22 hours and 39 minutes — an average of just more than 50 miles per day. He finished in the early morning Wednesday, October 19, according to his Instagram feed.
The previous fastest known time for the Arizona Trail was 21 days, 14 hours and 16 minutes, set in 2011 by 44-year-old Adam Bradley.
"I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am," Versteeg wrote on Instagram. "The Arizona Trail proved to be the most difficult thing I have ever done, and to come back and receive so much positive feedback and support is all a bit overwhelming for me."
Versteeg used his record-setting run to raise awareness and money for Save the Confluence, a group that opposes development of the area in the Grand Canyon where the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers converge. You can still donate to that effort via Versteeg's GoFundMe page.
The trail was conceived in the 1980s but wasn't completed until 2011. Starting near the Arizona-Utah border, it passes through several Arizona landmarks, including the Grand Canyon, the San Francisco Peaks, the Mogollon Rim and the Santa Catalina Mountains, before ending at Coronado National Memorial on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The route includes several trails that have been featured in Arizona Highways, including the Kaibab Plateau Trail up north, the Oak Trail near Payson and Passage 5 south of Tucson. And a scenic drive from a recent issue ends at Moqui Stage Station, a trailhead for one of the segments.