Alaska-connected runner takes top spot at Arizona 250-mile ultramarathon

Harry Subertas was initially drawn to Alaska for its elevation, arriving in Haines to attend and then work for Alaska Mountain Guides & Climbing School.

And it was in Alaska where he began to push himself to new heights as a runner, eventually taking on ultramarathons.

On Wednesday, Subertas won the Cocodona 250 in Arizona, breaking the race record by finishing in 59 hours, 50 minutes, 55 seconds.

Subertas, 33, completed an amazing rally down the stretch, passing professional ultra runner Jeff Browning just a few miles from the finish line on the outskirts of Flagstaff.

He said the conditions were excellent for the roughly 250-mile race, which starts in Black Canyon City heading northwest before curling back east to Flagstaff.

Subertas admitted to trying to push too hard at the onset, but a pair of 15-minute naps energized him as he got going into his second full day of running. That allowed him to keep pace with the top group, and eventually, he found himself in second place outside of Sedona. He realized he was also on pace to crack 60 hours, which was his ultimate goal.

In his previous 200-mile races, Subertas said he hadn’t had a crew or pacers. This time, he said that crew was vital for him winning the race. He said his partner ran multiple sections of the race with him and he even had a pacer he’d never met before come out to run sections of the trail with him starting at 3 a.m.


By midway through the third day, he realized his second-place finish was in jeopardy and pushed the pace. He was shocked that he was able to make up the time to catch Browning, who was already on the downhill portion of Mount Elden outside Flagstaff.

“Three miles to catch up in a 20-mile section, it’s a lot,” Subertas said.

But as Subertas and his pacer descended Elden, they kept crossing local hikers who told them Subertas was steadily closing the gap.

With just a couple miles left in the race, he caught Browning, who had been slowed by bronchial airway inflammation and was having difficulty breathing.

“Even after 240-plus miles, it’s not that easy,” he said. “Even downhill was hard, but the motivation was there and we kept pushing.”

Subertas was born and raised in Lithuania and ran track and cross-country growing up, but he wanted to push himself even further.

“I was always looking for a challenge,” he said. “That’s how I ended up in Alaska, the mountains and mountaineering.”

In 2017, he signed up for a 100-mile ultra marathon in Kentucky and continued to run two to three ultras a year. Well-known in the Alaska ultra scene, Subertas won the 2021 Alaska Endurance Trail Run in Fairbanks with 108 miles in 24 hours, and last year he won the Susitna 100 in Big Lake. In 2021, he topped a small field at the Sangre de Cristo Trail Festival in Colorado, and in 2022 he won the Tahoe 200 Endurance Run.

“Most recently, I just had become more and more addicted to longer and more challenging stuff,” he said.

Although he’s won a number of ultras across the U.S. in recent years, he was uncertain of how he’d fare at Cocodona, in a field packed with pro runners.

“This race was very unique because it’s, as far as I understand, in this 200-mile realm was the most competitive that we have seen,” he said.

Subertas relocated to Reno, Nevada, last fall to be with his partner but still maintains his place in Haines. Subertas, who’s a truck driver, said that despite his success, he has no plans to run professionally.

“I’m definitely not a professional, but this is my passion,” he said.

He has at least three more races he’s planning to run in 2024, including another Tahoe 200, the Bigfoot 200 in Washington and the Moab 240 Endurance Run in Utah in the fall.

Chris Bieri

Chris Bieri is the sports and entertainment editor at the Anchorage Daily News.