They ran or hiked distances of a quarter mile to more than 32 miles. Some climbed up to 3,500-5,000 feet in elevation as an added challenge.

Many chose trails in Park County and other remote Wyoming locations; others reported results from Montana, Idaho, Nebraska and Washington.

Jenar Jasso, who started an 18-mile run on White Mountain near Green River at 12:01 a.m. April 4, was the first to register of 65 people participating in the Virtual Hunt Trail Race.

Brodie Bennett chose 4.6 miles on Phelps Mountain by Meeteetse; James Patrick and Maria Tabara each reported 3 miles on South Fork Dike Road, and Shelley Blair Melton covered 8.2 miles and 2,128 feet in elevation on Cedar Mountain.

Other area routes included Beck Lake Trails, Paul Stock Trails, Sheep Mountain, Oregon Basin, McCullough Peaks, South Fork of Buffalo Bill Reservoir, Powell Canal Loop and Cowley and Garland roads.

Race revamp

Originally, RunCodyWY race director Janie Curtis had set April 4 for the Hunt Trail Races – a Wyoming trail run race in which competitors wear hunter orange as they run or walk distances of 1, 6 and 16 miles.

The start and finish for all three races were to be at the Cody Archery Range with aid stations along the trails manned by volunteers offering energy drinks and snacks.

When in mid-March the coronavirus resulted in public health officials warning people to avoid congregating, Curtis was quick to adapt the race to social distancing guidelines. She invited people instead to participate in a virtual race.

Using the Strava app on a smartphone, people could join the Virtual Hunt Trail Race club. Instead of racing for speed on the same trail, runners could run or hike on any trail or dirt road they chose anytime during race day.

“We will all be running together in spirit – at our own times and paces, and on our own trails – all while social distancing,” Curtis said when announcing the changed format.

Her goal was to challenge people to explore new trails and terrain.

“We have great established trail systems here,” she said. “But we also have countless dirt roads and game trails, all on public lands where you could never run the same route twice.

“And judging by peoples’ activity, there was lots of exploring.”

Fun format

A former high school cross country runner, Austin Wrem entered a few races local races while working in Cody last summer. Now living in McCall, Idaho, he hadn’t planned to participate in the Hunt Trail Races.

“But when I was informed it was being changed to a virtual format, I saw it as a great opportunity to be involved with the race and bring something different and fun into my current daily life,” he said.

For his 4-mile virtual run, Wrem picked Lake Creek trail in the Payette National Forest in Idaho.

Admitting nothing compares to a traditional race during which everyone runs together, Wrem viewed the virtual format as a great way to keep people involved and connected – to keep some normalcy in their lives – during a time when physical closeness isn’t wise.

“Events like this help to show that you can always find little ways to have fun, goof off and generally make the best of day-to-day life no matter what else might be going on in the world,” he said. ‘

Family affair

Cody school educators Patrick and Amy Couture and their sons kept the virtual race a family affair.

They had all competed in past Hunt Trail Races. For the virtual run, they chose trails near their home by the South Fork shore of Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

When 11-year-old Orrin Couture learned about the race change, he dug out an old Halloween costume and recorded a 1.25 mile run to a pond near his house dressed as Yoda from “Star Wars.”

“It was fun because it was outside and it was sunny and I got to run any route I wanted,” he said.

For his 3.17-mile run, Talon Couture, 13, ran to a spot on an island in the Buffalo Bill Reservoir only accessible when water levels are low.

He said the Hunt Trail Race he’d competed in last year was more difficult because the archery range trail goes uphill.

The virtual race was easier because he couldn’t see other competitors, which allowed him to run with less pressure and at a comfortable pace.

“The virtual race was actually better for my personality because I didn’t have to keep up with other people or look back over my shoulder to see if someone was coming,” he said. “Usually, I am in the back of a race, but this time it was like I was in the front of the race.”

The virtual format still connected family and friends.

At age 71, Amy Couture’s mother Nancy Hoffman has been a life-long runner who runs races in Cody organized by Curtis. She joined her family in the virtual event while staying close to her home near the golf course. She ran 4.26 miles on the network of dirt roads connecting Beck Lake and Red Lake.

Family friend Jenelle Varilla, in her 60s, joined the Couture family by participating in the Virtual Hunt Race by running several miles on a trail in Washington.

Virtual diversity

Rather than run, Jenny Cramer had volunteered to help at the Hunt Trail Race. Upon learning it was postponed, she immediately saw a chance to combine the virtual run with a planned 12-mile training run for a 50K later this summer.

“When Janie brilliantly turned it into a virtual event of any distance, it was an easy decision to participate,” Cramer said. “What surprised me was the level of interaction between participants as all of the runs were posting on Strava (that day).

She was also struck by the diversity of entrants’ ages and abilities.

“Janie created the prize categories in a way that made it fun and competitive whether the participant was walking a mile or running a technical trail marathon,” she said.

Cramer went all-in by dressing her dog Panda in a race hat and T-shirt to win the virtual hunt dog selfie category.

Business boost

With no set course or distances, traditional awards for places do not apply to virtual racing.

Instead, Curtis awarded prizes in 10 categories.

Most were awarded gift cards bought in Cody as a way to support local small businesses – many struggling during the COVID-19 crisis.

Prizewinners who do not live close by received RunCodyWY hats.

Virtual Hunt Trail Race results:

• Most remote trail, Steven Graham of Lewistown, Mont., at Kendall Ghost Town.

• Best on Trail Selfie, Austin Wrem of McCall, Idaho, yoga pose selfie in Palette National Forest, Riggins, Idaho.

• Best Dog Selfie, Jennifer Cramer’s dog Panda, Horse Creek Road, Shell.

• Farthest Distance, Brian Hess of Newcastle, 32.74 miles on George Mickelson Trail, Black Hills, S.D.

• Best Map Art, Cathy Roes, snake theme on Red Lakes trail, Cody.

• Most Elevation Climbed, Pete Mason, 5,126 feet on Mountainous Cody Loop.

• Best Outfit, Orrin Couture, Cody, dressed as Yoda on South Fork trail.

• Best Wildlife, Brandon Deromedi of Thermopolis, T-rex on T Hill Trail.

• First Runner, Jenar Jasso at Green River, 12:01 a.m., White Mountain.

• Best Post-Race Beverage, Charles Jamieson, pictured with a two drinks after running Red Lakes trail, Cody.

To learn more about future races and events in and around Cody, including the Buffalo Bill Cody Races, a half-marathon and 10K in September, email Curtis at info@runcodywy.com or go to https://runcodywy.com/.

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