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This weekend, Nick and Jamil Coury will set out to run 100 miles through Colorado’s rugged San Juan mountains during the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run.
The brothers are based in Phoenix, Arizona, and each have toed the line at the historic ultra several times before. The 2022 event will be the sixth Hardrock start for each of them.
The race is one large circumnavigation, and it changes direction each year. Jamil, 37, has only run it counterclockwise, so this year will be his first clockwise attempt, an exciting challenge for even Hardrock veterans, putting 14,000-foot Handies peak in the final third of the course.
Jamil first became interested in Hardrock after seeing photos from the 2006 race. The breathtaking ruby peaks and lush alpine meadows of the San Juans drew him in immediately.
“I saw those photos and immediately thought, This is the race for me, I’ve got to do this,” says Jamil. Though he was no stranger to the ultramarathon distance, 100’s were a new challenge for him. He immediately signed up for the 2007 Angeles Crest 100-miler, a Hardrock qualifier, with his brother Nick. The brothers yo-yoed back and forth all day, and eventually teamed up in the final 20 miles to finish together in under 24 hours. With Hardrock qualifying races under both of their belts, in 2008, Nick’s name was drawn in the lottery to run Hardrock, with Jamil as his pacer. In 2009, it was Jamil’s turn to run. He had high hopes for a sub-30-hour finish, but tough conditions derailed that goal. He persevered for a 33-hour loop.
“It was the hardest thing I’d ever done at the time,” says Jamil. During his 2013 race, Jamil got sick and rested at the Grouse aid station (mile 42) for four hours, falling from 7th to 109th place. “I had a resurrection once I felt better and posted one of the fastest splits of all time to finish in 14th place,” says Jamil. “Since then, I’ve moved toward an approach of taking it easier early on and hoping for a faster finish.”
Nick, 34, has experienced a rocky journey to the Hardrock start line. After breaking the American 24-hour record in December, running an astounding 173.01 miles (negative split!), his training has been up and down with some lingering injuries. Nick took a break from structured running to enjoy a more laid back spring after a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection to treat a heel bursa.
“Combined with a lot of recent down weeks, I finally feel like I’m on track to start healthy,” says Nick. The younger Coury also has five Hardrock finishes under his belt, after running with Jamil in 2013 and 2017 and having his brother as a pacer in 2008, 2015, and 2016.
“There’s something special about this race, and something special about the connection we have together with it. I’m very much looking forward to sharing miles out there with Jamil,” says Nick.
“Hardrock was the 100 miler that really got me most excited in the sport and, to date, is still one of my favorite events. The scenery, the people, the towns and everything about the event make it something special,” says Jamil. “Having my brother toeing the line just adds to that experience. We’ve been through a lot together in life, in business and in sport, and it’s always fun to share miles and experiences with him out there. He paced me for 57 long miles last year through my toughest and slowest Hardrock to date. I hope we’ll be able to move a bit faster together this year if it works out.”
Training For Hardrock
Neither brother’s training has been perfect. Jamil’s volume has been lower than normal, due to high work stress and his name being pretty far down the waitlist. He got the call that he was in the race, only 13 days before the start. Jamil works with a coach to do workouts and speedwork, which he says have really helped his ultra performance.
Jamil, who founded the trail and ultra race directing company Aravaipa Running in 2009, says training can take a backseat amidst the demands of his job.
“I think I do best when I can work some of that training into the demand of the job. Whether that is sweeping, course marking, or filming at the races,” says Jamil. Anyone who watched this year’s Cocodona 250 live broadcast will agree; Jamil logged over 90 miles getting footage for the stream.
“I think storytelling around our sport is extremely important to bring new folks into the mix. I don’t really view my own storytelling through that lens (trying to bring people in), but rather sharing the sport I love and getting out into nature and exploring the great outdoors. It’s a passion of mine and one that I enjoy sharing,” says Jamil. “I do try to find a unique story each time I cover the race, whether that be through my own perspective running or that of just pacing and filming the front of the pack.”
While Nick, who has been an owner at Aravaipa alongside his brother since 2010, enjoyed some lower volume training weeks in the San Juans, he also organized a 4th of July beer mile in Telluride, Colorado.
“I like to think that was preparation for the shots of Patron at Kroger’s Canteen,” says Nick, in reference to the high-altitude aid station best known for its precariousness, exposure, and liquid courage.
Love for the San Juans
Nick is especially excited to dive in, once again, to the rugged beauty of the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.
“The difficulty is so much beyond most races that tout how difficult they are. But the view from the top of any of the 13 major climbs is something I can’t put to words, and has to be experienced firsthand,” says Nick.
Both brothers also cite the old-school trail running vibes as a reason for returning to the race, the family-feel of the community, the sparsely marked course, and the small field size. Though the race is rugged and technical (hence the “graduate-level” designation often referred to by the race’s organizers) there is no required gear. Competitors spend hours on their own between aid stations, which is a draw for many.
“The Hardrock community is a tough bunch that loves the mountains and loves the ultra running community. It is a close-knit group and anyone who wants to come out and take part in the event is welcome,” says Jamil. “We are all doing something really tough, traveling over 100 miles through these steep remote mountains. That surely brings you close to the folks that are out there participating whether running, pacing, crewing, volunteering, and more.”
In addition to the trail family that many reference, the Coury brothers are excited that their actual family will be in Silverton to watch as well.
“From my entire family coming to crew me and Jamil, to the familiar faces at every aid station, to the epic views in the day and the serene twinkle of stars in the night,” says Nick. More than ever, I am looking forward to just being out there and being during the race.”