50k Ultra Marathon coming to Mount Shasta

Contributed by Charlie Unkefer
Headwaters Ultra Marathon organizer Gerad Dean puts in the miles during the 2012 Pine to Palm 100 mile ultra marathon. An ultra marathon is considered to be any running race that is longer than a marathon (26.2 miles). Most ultras are run off of roads. Contributed photo

Mount Shasta has long been a home to outdoor races of all sorts, be it the town's flagship event, the Fourth of July road run, the Summit Century Bike Ride, the Tin Man Triathlon or the many events that occur at both the Mt. Shasta Ski Park and the Nordic Center.

Thanks to local resident Gerad Dean, we can now add one more event to that list – The Headwaters Ultra Marathon, a 50 kilometer (31 mile) trail run that will start at the Lake Siskiyou Campground on Aug. 24 and take runners on a challenging mountain course on the trails and dirt roads that crisscross the drainages above Lake Siskiyou.

"The 50k race is a scenic, mountainous loop course. It is run entirely on single-track trails and dirt forest roads," explained Dean.

More specifically, it begins at the Lake Siskiyou Campground and then climbs Deer Creek to Rainbow Ridge, where it follows the ridge north, looping back east and south to return almost to the lake.

From there, it works its way up the Sisson-Callahan Trail, eventually making a full tour of the upper reaches of the North Fork drainage. Overall, runners climb roughly 4,400 feet.

"It's a challenging and scenic course that I think the burgeoning ultrarunner and experienced runner will enjoy," said Dean, who has run all of the sections but not at one time.

There is also a 10k (6.2 mile) run, which consists of a circumnavigation of Lake Siskiyou.

"The 10k is a flat, fast counter-clockwise loop around the lake. The course is entirely on the Lake Siskiyou Recreation Trail. Incredible views of the lake back dropped by Mt. Shasta and Mt. Eddy abound," said Dean, further noting that it has become a favorite with area runners, especially since the bridge spanning a section of the lake was built. "I encourage beginning trail runners, as well as those who want to improve their 10k time to sign up for this shorter run."

Dean, who moved to Mount Shasta in 2010 to work with the Forest Service, fell in love with the areas trails and was inspired to host the race.

"I felt like there was room for an ultramarathon event here in Mount Shasta," he said, noting that both Ashland and Redding have developed strong running communities and have a history of hosting races. "But we have the terrain," Dean said with a glimmer in his eye.

In addition to phenomenal topography, Dean explained that he has been inspired by the small but avid community of runners he has met since he started exploring the area on foot.

"I fell in love with the running community both here and in other places. It is a community connected both to nature and to each other," Dean said.

While not running locally, Dean competes regularly in ultra marathons throughout the West. Last season, he was ranked the number one runner in the Oregon Trail Ultra Marathon Series (based on a composite of his overall times over the course of several events).

He also ran (and won) his first 100 mile race, the Pine to Palm 100, a massive tour of the Siskiyou Mountains, which starts in Williams, Ore. and ends in Ashland, an endeavor that took him just under 20 hours to complete.

When asked what it was like to run virtually nonstop for such a distance, Dean reflected on the severe physical and emotional challenges.

"There are so many emotions that accompany a runner through an ultra… I enjoy the challenge of being patient and resilient, and to expect the unexpected. Perseverance is my measure of myself," Dean said.

He is also an avid hiker and skier and said he simply enjoys being in nature. "Ultra running is way for me to connect with the landscape."

The Headwaters Ultra will be held on Aug. 24 with the 50k starting at 8 a.m. and the 10k starting at 9 a.m. For more information and to register visit

Proceeds from the event will go to the Siskiyou Land Trust and its Sisson Garden Greenways Campaign, a project dedicated to outdoor education experiences for area children; providing community garden space for residents; and creating paths and trails throughout the community.

Headwaters Ultra is a project of the Associated Charitable Resource of Southern Siskiyou. This is the charitable 501c (3) organization that provides Headwaters Ultra the legality to be a charitable race.

Headwaters Ultra is a nondiscriminatory recreation provider under special use authorization from the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Siskiyou County, and Lake Siskiyou Camp-Resort.