2017 Stairway to Heaven Ultra-Half Marathon and 15K

(3rd Race in the Trail Half Marathon Series and Progressive Series)
Date:  August 12, 2017

2017 Half Marathon Results

2017 15K Results

Start and Finish Line Photos

Some course pics #1

*****Due to new park policies there will be a modified Half Marathon and 15K course.  The map below represents both courses with the differences being described in the notes.  The actual distance of the Half will be very close to 13.1 and the 15K 9.3 miles

New Course Map

2013 Stairway to Heaven Half Marathon & 15K Video

What are people saying about the Stairway to Heaven Ultra Half Marathon? “Wonderfully Miserable”, “Perfectly Horrible”, “The hardest but most enjoyable race I have ever done”, “One of these days I will return to do this race…..and I will not leave in an ambulance”


Half Marathon Course Map

Registration: Opens December 20, 2016


Results: to be posted after race immediately on Ultrasignup.com

Entry Fee Stairway to Heaven 15K

  • $55 – Early Bird to May 30, 2017
  • $65 –  Thru June 30, 2017
  • $72  –   Until the race sells out


Entry Fee Half Marathon

  • $60 – Early Bird to May 30, 2017
  • $75 –  Thru June 30, 2017
  • $82 –  Until the race sells out



Mission Trails Regional Park
Equestrian Center off Mast Blvd.
Santee, CA  92071

Race Capacity:  400

Race Start Time: 7 AM

(Mandatory Race Day Check-in: 5:45-6:45 am only)
(Parking Lot opens at: 5:45 am)

Course Description Half Marathon and 15K: Runners will follow the course markings through the grasslands until they begin to ascend a steep ¾ mile hill at mile 2 encountering their first aid station at the top. After reaching the top, runners will wind down into the canyon on a combination of narrow single track and fire road trails. After reaching the second aid station runners will descend into Suycott Wash making their way towards South Fortuna Mountain and the infamous “Stairway to Heaven.” When runners reach the stairway they will ascend up South Fortuna on steps that have been carved into the mountain. Once at the top their efforts are rewarded with spectacular views of the valley … and our own Dirt Devil Stairway Angel.

Stairway To Heaven

Runners now make their way to the 3rd aid station (which was also aid station #1 at the top of the hill) before descending the steep ¾ mile hill and returning on the same trails back towards the starting area.  About ½ mile before the finish runners will make a sharp left deviating from the original fire road they originally ran out on.  After the left turn deviation they will shortly make a sharp right following the double track back to the starting area.  This course is not a true out and back.  Look at the map below for more detailed instruction.



It is MANDATORY that ALL runners carry at minimum 12 oz. hand bottle for hydration.  This race is in August, is dusty and steep at points, and you will use more hydration than you normally do.  So be prepared!!!

About This Race
. . . and it’s role in both the Half Marathon and Progressive Series:

The Stairway to Heaven Half Marathon and 15k Trail Race is brought to you by Dirt Devil Racing.com and is the 3rd of the four races in the Half Marathon and Progressive Series. All our trail races are incredible, but the Stairway to Heaven Half Marathon and 15k is a challenging, and extremely rewarding course. You will definitely feel a major sense of accomplishment after you cross the finish line!  You can run this race independently or as part of the series.

If you plan to do the Half Marathon or Progressive Series you MUST run all FOUR races depending which series you are competing in.  The Progressive Series kicks off with the Foxy 5k in April, followed by the Wildhorse 10k in June, then this Stairway to Heaven 15k in August, and finally the Raptor Ridge Half Marathon in October.  The Half Marathon Series takes place the same days with the Foxy Half in April, Wildhorse Half in June, Stairway to Heaven Half in August and finally Raptor Ridge in October.

If you are NOT doing the series and just want to run a great Half or 15k trail … then this is an amazing and challenging trail.  It sold out a month in advance last year, and we expect the same this year!

So act fast and don’t delay on registering thru www.ultrasignup.com


Course cut-off:  The course cut-off time is 4  hours for the Half and 3 hours for the 15K.  No finisher awards will be given for any racer not completing the course within the required time.

Aid Stations:  There will be 4 aid stations for the 15K and Half.  Miles 2 … 4.5 …. 6.5 … and mile 8.  There will be aid at the finish area as well.

IMPORTANT:   It is MANDATORY that all runners carry at minimum 12 oz. hand bottle for hydration.  Besides the fact that this race is in August, is a dusty and steep trail at times, it is also wise to wear the proper sun protection, hat/visors, and carry more hydration that you normally would for a trail of this distance.  This is a trail race and we are trying to eliminate the use of cups at Aid Stations to truly go green. We need you to do your part. We will meet you half way this year … but may go completely green in 2016. So get your practice runs in now carrying a hydration pack or belt!

Course Map:  http://goo.gl/maps/fZqk1

*This map is a mix of the Half and the 15K…..see below for just the Half Marathon map

Half Marathon Course Map:

DDR STH Course Map

Click to enlarge

Course Video:


Directions to Start:  The starting area is located at the Equestrian Center at MissionTrails Park just off of Mast Blvd.  To get to the Equestrian Center take the 52 Freeway EAST from San Diego or WEST from El Cajon and exit Mast Blvd.  Turn Right (if headed East) at the bottom of the off ramp, and drive straight into the Equestrian center.  Turn LEFT (if headed West), and drive straight into the Equestrian center.   If the gate is closed you have arrived prior to the 5:45 am parking lot opening.  We must follow permit rules and times that we are authorized to open.

Click Here for Directions (Google Maps)

Please pre-print directions to ensure you know where you are going the morning of the race.

Race Day Parking: There is ample parking in dirt lots at the Equestrian Center adjacent to the check-in area near the start line.  Please follow ALL Parking Staff instructions, as we want to ensure that ALL racers have a parking spot. If you can carpool please do. This makes parking quicker and easier for all.  Overflow parking is about ¾ mile away on Mast Blvd, at West Hills Park … just before West Hills High School.

Race Check in:  5:45 am – 6:45am

Race Start Time:  Half Marathon 7 am 15K 7:15

There will be a separate start for the Half and 15K with the Half Marathon starting roughly 15 minutes prior to the 15K.

Prizes:  All Half and 15K finishers will receive a moisture-wicking technical T-shirt and a commemorative BEER GLASS with the race logo and event date and a really cool race award.  This collector’s glass is the 3rd in the set of 4 that finishers can earn. However, by completing All 4 Half Marathons runners can earn a set of all 4 glasses and the coveted Dirt Devil Racing-Mike Hess Beer Logo Stainless Steel Beer Growler.

For prizes provided to Overall and Age Group Winners please see the Race Prizes page.

2012 Stairway To Heaven Race Glass– Actual 2017 schwag will vary.

Race Results: Race results will be available at the finish line. Please do not interrupt the professional timing team. Just as you want an accurate time, so do the racers that have yet to finish behind you. We will have the Overall & Age Group Winner times available at the Post-Race Party & Awards Ceremony which will be held on site. All race times and distance placing will be available on www.ultrasignup.com within 24 hours and www.DirtDevilRacing.com website no later than the Wednesday after the race.

Post-Race Party and Awards Ceremony will be at West Hills Park:


Packet Pick-up Location: Packet Pick-up will take place at the starting area.  All racers will receive their bib when you check in.  Half Marathoners and 15K will receive their medal at the finish line (assuming you finish).   All racers, once finished, will proceed to the check in tent where you will receive your custom, technical fabric race shirt.  Both Half Marathoners and 15K will also receive a custom logo pint glass at this time.

MANDATORY Race Day Check-in: All race participants MUST check in on race morning. Failure to check in prior to starting the race will result in automatic disqualification. Check-in begins at 5:45.  Please read ALL of the “MANDATORY READ” race day rules prior to race day to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Refund Policy:  There are no refunds….no exceptions.  Dirt Devil Racing does allow for bib transfers up to 2 weeks prior to the race however there is a $5 admin fee.  You must notify the race director (Drrunco@sdri.net) or your intent to swap the bib.  The person taking your bib must also notify the race director (Drrunco@sdri.net) and then go to ultrasignup.com top register.   When prompted to pay….DO NOT…proceed to checkout where you will see the balance is $0.  If it says anything other than “$0″ get off the site and contact Drrunco@sdri.net.   If all necessary information is not provided to the race director the bib will be “disqualified” regardless of who runs wearing it.  No bib transfers will be accepted after August 2nd…….no exceptions.


Canceling: If you can no longer run the race and it is too late to receive a refund, you are encouraged to let the Race Director: Krista@SDRi.net know that you are canceling. This will “potentially” allow another Wait Listed racer the opportunity to run if there is enough lead time. Sure you don’t get your money back, because all the race expenses have already been paid out, including the schwag and goodies, porta-potties, permits, insurance, etc that we have purchased on your behalf … but it does net you some great “running karma” for your next successful race!! And who doesn’t need that, right?!!!

Wait List Option: Once the race is sold out …. (and it will) …. you can email the Race Director: Krista@SDRi.net and request to be Wait Listed. This is the information that will be required to complete that process. You will get a “Wait List Confirmed” email once you have successfully completed the process. Further instructions will follow. All fields must be filled out in order for your Wait List to be entered in the system:

Once your completed info is received you will be waitlisted in the order your ‘original’ email request was received. Do NOT send duplicate emails, unless it contains separate racer info. All fields MUST be filled out completely.

Be sure the EMAIL ADDRESS you use in your answers is one you can check 24/7.

As cancellations come in, the next on the Wait List will be EMAILED and offered the chance to call SDRI and pay for the race. Once payment is complete you are in. You will NOT be required to pick up your bib until race morning.

Racer’s First & Last Name:
Racer’s Phone Number:
Racer’s Email (that you can check any day of the week)
Racer’s Birthdate (mm-dd-yy)

MANDATORY Race Day Check-in: All race participants MUST check in on race morning. Failure to check in prior to starting the race will result in automatic disqualification. Check-in begins at 6AM.  Please read ALL of the “MANDATORY READ” race day rules prior to race day to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Traveling to San Diego for the Stairway To Heaven Trail Half Marathon or 15K? San Diego has a long list of great attractions and activities for you and your family to enjoy. If you will be traveling to the race for the weekend here are a few hotels close to the start as well as some places the Dirt Devils love to check out after a run in the area.

Places to Stay:

Hilton DoubleTree Golf Resort

14455 Penasquitos Dr., San Diego,California, 92129-1603, USATEL: +1-858-672-9100

Holiday Inn Hotel San Diego–La Mesa  — 8000 Parkway Drive  — La Mesa, 91942


Days Inn & Suites  –7475 El Cajon Blvd–La Mesa, 91941


Heritage Inn La Mesa — 7851 Fletcher Pkwy — La Mesa, 91942


Things to Do:

Anthony’s Fish Market – A San Diego Landmark & Lake Restaurant
San Diego Safari Park
Sea World San Diego
Old Town Historic District & Shops
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
San Diego Padre’s Ballpark
San Diego Zoo

Thank you to our sponsors:

Nutrition for runners

California Half & Full Marathon
Orange Mud
Mimi’s Kitchen
Amateure Endurance
Fuel Belt
Ignite Naturals
Reload Energy Fuel
Knuckle Lights
Salt Stick
The Michels Group
Honey Stinger


PLEASE NOTE: Some comments listed below are from previous year’s races. Look for the date listed above the comment to see what year and race the commenter is referencing.


37 Responses to 2017 Stairway to Heaven Ultra-Half Marathon and 15K

  1. Joe Heflin says:

    I have a couple of questions.
    Approximately how many steps are there in the steps portion of the course? Or, what is the horizontal distance in feet that the steps portion covers (1000 feet, 3000 feet)?
    And is everybody in the same category? Or are there age groups, and Male, Female?

    • Dr. Runco says:

      Regarding the steps……..The climb from the little bridge to the South Fortuna Ridge is 558′ vertical and .6 miles. The last 250′ vertical will be over 350 steps fashioned from 4″x6″ timbers …
      When you register you must declare your avg. running minute per mile pace. Runners are placed into wave starts based on their average speed.
      There are age group and male and female categories

  2. Jon G says:

    Not sure if you’ve been out to the final stretch of this course yet this year. There are 3 really awful large sections of loose rocks where they tried to repair the trail but only laid the rocks and didn’t fill in with dirt. Makes the last 1/4 mile really nasty. Take a look if you can and perhaps consider tracking the finish back over the course beginning. I had thought it would be filled in eventually but it’s been like this all year. Nearly twisted my ankle twice on it yesterday.
    Thank you

    • Dr. Runco says:

      I ran it 2 weeks ago in the dark and the week before in the daylight. I am guessing you are talking about the section after the staircase on the approach to the saddle? I agree there are technical sections and I am not sure if the park will fix this or not prior to the event. Unfortunately I am at their mercy. They are also not big on allowing me to alter the course. Thanks for your input.

  3. Joe Price says:

    I just want to say I love this course! I previewed it and am happy I did.

  4. Joe Price says:

    Is there any changes to the course from last year? I noticed the course map does not correspond with the written description. I see the Oak Canyon and paved road sections in the written description but not the course map. Its all good if the course changed, just need clarification. Thanks, and all the best.

    • Dr. Runco says:

      Yes the course description reflects the “old” course that is used if the “new” course has any trails closed. I prefer to not use Oak Canyon as it is an ankle snapper

  5. Mary says:

    Can you use trekking poles?

  6. Paul Irvine says:

    Is Stairway To Heaven 15k sold out? It says registration is closed.


  7. Terence says:

    Hi- any word on where the breakfast/awards ceremony will be?

  8. Vic Ferreira says:

    Other than about 4 miles, are there any qualitative differences between the half and 15K? Are there different features, substantially different difficulties (other than the difference in distance), or anything else, that would lead a runner to want to choose one vs the other? (I ask in part because the site warns that the 15K is difficult, technical etc., and it’s not clear if that’s a basic difference between the two distances.)

    • Dr. Runco says:

      you can go to the website and look at the maps they are similar with the exception of the added distance to the Half. At about mile 8 ish the Half veers off through some techincal single track and then has to ascend on more short hill before heading back to the same finish area….look at the maps provided halfway down the page.
      It is my opinion if you can do the 15K you can do the half

  9. Ivan Santana says:

    Hello , is there going to be another previewed on the half Course ?

  10. Emily says:

    Is there a better map of the 1/2 marathon course? I have tried looking on the internet but haven’t had any luck. Thank you in advance.

  11. Brian B says:

    I signed up for Stairway to Heaven HM 2015 today and I’m looking forward to this.

    I find at least 4 links to maps on this page, but none appear accurate (one is a dead link). Is there an accurate map of the half marathon course, and in particular an accurate elevation profile? I am really curious what I am getting myself into.


    • Dr. Runco says:

      This link show 8.26 miles of the course along with elevation profile http://home.trainingpeaks.com/athlete/workout/OGXL3KTSYWHHCJP3CYKNX43ZLI
      The additional miles for the half will most likely have an additional hill totaling the elevation at 2500 feet of total gain
      The trails are subject to change per the park…I am working on getting a map together that shows the planned course

      • Brian B says:

        OK. thanks. Looking forward to seeing the final map, but more so looking forward to the run!

        Good to know that my 10 mile 2000′ up/down training runs won’t quite mean I’m ready for the elevations; gotta up my game ;).

  12. Gerard Boyle says:

    I am in the Navy and never been to San Diego. I would like to know the best way to get to the race start area from the Naval base. Can you help me with this?

  13. jesus ramirez says:

    Good afternoon Dr. Runco:

    I have signed up for Stairway to Heaven Half however some of my running buddies procrastinated and tried to sign up but it is full. Is there a waiting list or other way?
    I have 3 people that want to sign up.

  14. Jeremy Winters says:

    Good afternoon, Dr Runco,
    I have a question that’s one I’m forward from my friends. Should I have any friends coming as spectators to cheer me on is there a good place for them to sit or stand? I’m sure the trail is very narrow and they probably shouldn’t go out to far. I should probably advise them to park at Westhills Parkway if they choose to come to the race late to catch it while in progress because there won’t be any spots up from the North Equestrian lot. I look forward to your response shortly. Thanks.

  15. Mark says:

    Hi, I am just reviewing the course and have a quick question: are you a psych doctor because I am asking myself if I need evaluation for signing up for all four of these races.

    See you tomorrow!

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  18. daniel smith says:

    I’ve done 15k and half now, i will conquer this run next year. The half almost beat me this year but i pulled it out. I will train harder and come back.

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