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5/16/2022 Q&A with Luke Nelson of Scout Mountain Ultras

The Scout Mountain Ultras are coming up in just a few weeks on June 3-4! From snow storms to blistering heat, the weather conditions at this early summer mountainous race outside of Pocatello, Idaho are almost always a mixed bag. But race director Luke Nelson prefers it that way.

“Too often in modern society we can shelter ourselves from the elements and from hard things. It may be an extra challenge to deal with spring weather in Idaho, but that is the beauty of it.”

We check in with Nelson to learn more about the Scout Mountain Ultras. And for the procrastinators among us, there are some spaces left. Choose between 21, 50, or 100-mile courses.

SkyRun will be volunteering at the race again this year so if you’re there, come say hi!

Incredible course in a beautiful setting. Photo by Jana Herzog.

Can you give me an overview of the Scout Mountain Ultras? Where is it and how would you describe the course(s)?

Scout Mountain Ultras is a trail running event and community gathering held in the mountains around Pocatello, Idaho. We have a 100 mile, 50 mile, and 21 mile race. I would describe the course as a challenging, fun mountain run in a place not famous for mountains.

Why did you decide to hold the race in the spring when there’s such a high chance of wild weather and snow-covered trails? Clearly, that’s part of your decision making so what are the benefits of these additional challenges?

I want to host an event that challenges people. Too often in modern society we can shelter ourselves from the elements and from hard things. It may be an extra challenge to deal with spring weather in Idaho, but that is the beauty of it. We have seen everything from 100 degree plus temps to heavy snow. All the runners get to deal with the weather and the course, and every year hundreds of runners choose to have that experience.

Why create an ultra event in these mountains specifically? Do you have a special connection to this area?

I grew up near Pocatello, and have called Pocatello home for 20 years. It is not known as a trail running or mountain sport destination, but it is an incredible community with even better trails. I love inviting runners quite literally in to my backyard to experience this beautiful place for themselves.

Talk about the race’s environmental initiatives. From service requirements for participants to coordinating with environmental groups, this is obviously a priority of yours. Why? What is the thought process behind incorporating these ethics into the race?

I sometimes joke that we are an environmental event with a running problem. Seriously though, I think a gathering of the trail running community is a great time to connect with the issues facing the trails, lands and communities we love. By providing an opportunity to runners to interact with environmental and conservation groups it opens the door to learning more and doing more to be an active part of protecting the places we love.

Spring in full swing for the Scout Mountain Ultra. Photo by Jana Herzog.

What would you say to someone considering signing up for this event?

That they will get more out of it than the expect. They will have world class support on an outstanding, well-marked, and challenging course. We have over 150 volunteers working tirelessly to make it the best experience for the runners. Best of all, they will get to challenge themselves physically in a way that will change who they are, it will make them better!

What is personally your favorite part of the race and why? What inspires you to direct this race year after year?

Two things. First, the single track coming in to the Big Fir Aid Station, that all of the runners do, may be the best single track on the planet. Second, seeing runners return to the finish line after putting it all out there, you get to see their soul. I love greeting them at the end of that journey.

What else makes this event unique? Anything I missed that folks should know about?

All of the race awards and prizes are handmade by our Aid Station Coordinator, Dwight Worthington. They get to take a little piece of the Scout Mountain home with them!

Photo by Jana Herzog.


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