Badger Mountain will be heavily trafficked this weekend as more than 600 runners and walkers participate in the second Badger Mountain Challenge.
A 100-mile endurance run starts at 7 a.m. Friday, and the 50-kilometer ultramarathon and 15K trail run begin at 7 and 8 a.m. Saturday.
Last year's endurance run winners, Kevin Douglas of Mount Vernon and Terry Sentinella of Anacortes, completed the event in 20 hours, 49 minutes, 40 seconds. As of Wednesday, Sentinella was among 62 entrants in the 2012 event.
"We almost tripled the 100-milers this year (from 23 in 2011)," race organizer Brandon Lott said. "It shows how much more the word is getting out and people are recognizing this race."
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The 100-mile endurance run has become a qualifying race for the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, a 166K (103-mile) event that starts in late August and goes through France, Italy and Switzerland.
The BMC also is part of the Washington Grand Slam, established by last year's female winner, Van Phan of Maple Valley. To complete the Grand Slam, runners must finish the five 100-mile races in Washington: the BMC, Lumberjack (April), Pigtails Challenge (May), Cascade Crest (August) and Plain (September).
In the 50K ultramarathon, Ian Sharman, a Bend, Ore., resident who ran a 12:44:33 in the 2011 Rocky Raccoon 100 in Huntsville, Texas, will be one of 73 participants. The 15K trail run has attracted 502 competitors.
But the races are not just about drawing world-class runners to the Tri-Cities.
Lott, a veteran of 12 100-milers, started the BMC to benefit Friends of Badger Mountain, an organization devoted to preserving the open space and trails along the mountain.
"Last year, we almost raised over $7,000 for Badger Mountain," Lott said. "It's closer to $10,000 this year. They're of course really happy about that."
The BMC also has gained bigger sponsors, including McCurley Integrity Subaru and Badger Mountain South.
Observers of this year's BMC will see people from ages 9 to 83 on the trail. Two Fort Lewis soldiers will attempt the 100-mile event, as will a group of Kennewick and Richland firefighters planning to run the race like a relay.
The competitors will head to the west side of Prosser before turning around, and there is a climb up Candy Mountain about five miles from the finish.
Unlike last year, runners will wear microchips that track their times, and awards will be given after the course closes at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Lott says the appeal of running such long distances, especially the 100-miler, lies in achieving what might seem impossible at the start.
"It's a challenge and something that's out there that maybe no one else does and a small percentile do it," Lott said. "It's like why people climb mountains or Mount Everest. Mount Everest is a lot harder than 100 miles. But the cumulative elevation gain (in the BMC) is almost 21,000 feet going up and down, up and down. They're almost climbing Mount Everest by the time they're done."
And they will feel as if they are on top of the world once they have crossed the finish line.
w Katie Dorsey: 582-1526; email@example.com