Speedgoat 50K’s legendary founder
keeps it nice and excruciating
Karl Metzer has made a habit of not only winning 100-mile trail races but of obliterating course records while he was at it.
But even more noteworthy to the Utah trail-running community is that Metzer founded and directs one of the most challenging mountain races in the country, the Speedgoat 50.
Nicknamed The Speedgoat, Metzer is still going strong after 20-plus years of having a “passion for going as far as possible, as fast as possible, while enjoying every minute of it.”
The Utah resident has completed 123 ultra-marathons and won 52 of them. He’s also won 36 100-mile races—currently a world record. And if that weren’t enough to fill his dance card, he also has crushed 20 trail marathons and won eight of them.
Metzer trotted into Salt Lake City in 1989 to ski bum at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort, where he worked as a bartender—mainly for the season pass. He fell in love with the Wasatch, and he stuck around. After his first ski season, Metzer spent the summer running in the mountains. He entered some races and won. He emerged as one of the best trail runners locally, and eventually, in the United States.
In 1998, Metzer took first in the famed Wasatch 100 trail race by running 100 miles in 20 hours, 8 minutes (beating the previous record time by 21 minutes). The next year, he was a sponsored, full-fledged professional runner, who began ticking off podium finishes in the country’s top trail races.
Metzer founded the Speedgoat 50K in 2007. “At the time, it was a unique race because it was harder than anything else in the U.S.” he says.
“John Collins [Snowbird’s director of mountain activities] had asked me if I could get 100 runners to toe the line,” Metzer says. “I said it would be easy—and, sure enough, the first year we had 112 runners start.” By 2014, the race had 440 participants.
The race is very Karl: Its name comes from his moniker. It is passionately brutal. And the race course winds up and down the very slopes that brought him to Utah.
Races around the country have followed in the same footsteps as the Speedgoat 50K by developing ever-more-difficult mountain courses. But the Speedgoat 50K remains one of the hardest. In fact, it’s downright masochistic—runners climb and descend 12,000 feet, scramble around the rocky crags of Baldy and Hidden Peak, get muddied up and post-hole through the occasional snow patch.
“The whole idea is to make it hard,” Metzer says. “Having skied at Snowbird for 20 years, I know the mountain, and I use the mountain to create a route that keeps things entertaining.”
A phalanx of elite runners shows up for the annual race, which now boasts a tidy $20,000 winner’s purse. Wasatch locals and international runners line up together to test their mettle in fairly fierce competition.
But in the end, the sport is approachable and friendly, and he hopes to keep it that way. “Many star athletes in other sports aren’t personable. But ultra-running is a niche community, where we’re all like family. I love that feeling; I love being part of the family,” he says.
The Speedgoat 50K ups the ante for hardcore runners, yet Metzer stays busy doing private coaching sessions for up-and-coming runners in Utah, too. His approach is low-key and positive: No distance is too far if you just work your way up, listen to your body and plan on spending the day in the mountains. (He’s also famously unfussy about training routines, eats what he wants to, and washes it down with delicious beer.)
The way he puts it, “Just run all day,” or “100 miles isn’t that far,” makes an extra-long race sound less intimidating.