Bentonville Dirt Circus organizers expect top trail runners this weekend

Top racers expected for Bentonville event with activities over 2 days

The trailhead for Blowing Springs trails is located behind Cooper Elementary on Blowing Springs Road. (Cassi Lapp/The Weekly Vista)

BENTONVILLE -- A field of top runners is expected for the Dirt Circus 10K this weekend.

The Bentonville Dirt Circus 10K and 5K races will be held Saturday. UltraSignup, Rush Running Co., Visit Bentonville and Trailblazers are putting on this new event.

The Dirt Circus 10K is a challenging course that will wind through Handcut Hollow, a system of hand-built trails developed and maintained by Trailblazers. The route was created by James Reeves, a local runner, race director and manager at Rush Running. It is intended to be rugged, technical and unforgiving, according to a news release.

The event is geared toward professional trail runners and trail running enthusiasts. There is a $10,000 prize purse in the 10K race, according to race organizers. The 10K race will start at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, followed by the 5K at 8 a.m.

The payouts are $3,000 for first place, $1,250 for second and $750 for third in the men's and women's classes in the 10K race, said Rob Goyen, director of events at UltraSignup.

So far, about 150 runners have signed up for the 10K, and the 5K has drawn about 50 runners, said Annemarie Kruse, director of marketing for UltraSignup.

"Our 10K lineup is very strong, with some of the fastest runners in the country turning out in pursuit of the $10,000 prize purse," Kruse said. "The 5K is a great community event and we have added a Kids' 1K to make it fun for the whole family. We would love to have more local Bentonville residents join us."

Expected competitors include Andy Wacker, a pro trail and road runner who has represented Team USA 17 times; Christian Allen, who placed first in the 38-kilometer race at the World Mountain Running World Cup final in Gran Canaria, Spain, in mid-October; Samuel Ongaki, who took first place at the Xterra Americas Trail Run Championship 42-kilometer in May; Dan Curts, who recently took second at the Xterra Trail World Championships half marathon at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine; and Morgan Elliott, a two-time member of the U.S. Mountain Running National Team, according to the release.

Joseph Gray also will run the 10K. He is a 28-time member of Team USA and the first Black American to make the Team USA World Mountain Running team and win the USA National Mountain Running championships and World Mountain Running Championships. Earlier this year, he won the U.S. National Snowshoe Championships, according to race officials.

Wacker, who lives in Colorado, said this will be his first time to run Bentonville's trails.

"I am looking forward to racing some of the best U.S. trail runners on a fast and technical 10K course," he said. "I am the 2022 U.S. mountain running champ and have raced short and sub-ultra trail races for my entire professional running career.

"Short, fast and technical trail racing is wildly popular in Europe and is growing in the U.S. I think Dirt Circus and Bentonville can be a leader to popularize sub-ultra trail racing in the U.S. I'm excited to participate in the first year and can't wait to see the trails in Bentonville."

Ultra racing is anything above a marathon -- 26.2 miles.

The women's field is expecting Dani Moreno, who recently took second at the Mammoth Trail Fest 26-kilometer race; Mercedes Siegle-Gaither, who has shown she has range but whose performance at the Broken Arrow Skyrace Triple Crown has made her a rising star in shorter efforts; and Megan Lacey, a two-time member of U.S. Mountain and Trail Running Team USA, according to the release.

Moreno, from California, also has not been to Bentonville. "However, I have heard about it from a few of my mountain-biking friends, and they have nothing but great things to say about the community.

"I have also watched a few YouTube videos, and the rolling terrain, mixed with some technical sections, looks like a blast. I am excited to get out there and take in all the community has to offer."

The Bentonville Dirt Circus also will host a Kids 1K event, an expo and an after-party.

On Friday, Mike Rush of Rush Running will lead a "social shakeout run" of 3 to 5 miles starting at 9 a.m. Rush Running also will be the site for packet pickup, and runners are invited to come together for dinner that night at 8th Street Market, according to a schedule posted online.

"We are excited to welcome this world-class field of runners to Bentonville for the Dirt Circus 10K," Goyen said. "This race will showcase the incredible trails that Northwest Arkansas has to offer and attract more trail runners to visit the area."

Saturday will be a busy day in the city with the influx of trail runners, the opening of the Rink at Lawrence Plaza at noon and the annual Lighting of the Square at 6 p.m.

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