History of The 508
The race has a remarkable history, one that we celebrate—and build upon—every year.
This race was founded in 1983 by the godfather of ultracycling, John Marino, who also created the Great American Bicycle Race and the Race Across America (RAAM). It was then known as the John Marino Open.
Originally created primarily as the qualifier for the Race Across America, the John Marino Open—or JMO—was first staged in May of 1983. The 762-mile course made seven and a half laps around the 102-mile loop formerly used in the second half of the Hemet Double Century in Southern California. The winners of the inaugural race were Michael Secrest and Kitty Goursolle. The race was held again in May of 1984 and May of 1985, then it was moved to Arizona so that the race could be run in a format with support vehicles and time stations, like RAAM.
The first Arizona race was 750 miles from Tucson to the Grand Canyon and back, where its first champion was Scott Fortner. Subsequent editions of the AZ races went from Tucson to Flagstaff and back, a distance of 542 miles. The race was run seven times in Arizona and changed its name to RAAM Open West for a few years.
The race moved back to California with the April 1989 version of the event covering 508 miles from Santa Clarita to Death Valley to Twentynine Palms, a route suggested by the 1987 Race Across America winner, Casey Patterson. The first champion on that Santa Clarita-based course was John Hughes.
In the fall of 1990, John Marino asked Chris Kostman to take over the event, then operating as Kostman Sport Group (now AdventureCORPS). Chris was a finisher of the May 1985 race in Hemet and the October 1986 race in Arizona, as well as the 1987 Race Across America. Chris had also worked on the JMO staff in 1984 through 1989 and the Race Across America staff in 1985, 1986, and 1989. To say Chris was enthralled with the sport would be a massive understatement: Chris looked up to John Marino as a mentor and loved everything about ultra cycling, so he jumped at the chance to produce and promote the race.
In 1991 Chris changed the name of the race from RAAM Open West to Furnace Creek 508, or more simply as "The 508," to aid in promoting the event worldwide and enhancing its distinct identity as something much bigger than just a RAAM qualifier. The totem system was begun in 1993, giving a new outlet for racers to identify themselves both during The 508 as well as in other races and in "real life."
The race was successfully held 28 times on the Death Valley-centered route between 1989 and 2012.
In 2013, the race was abbreviated to a 353-mile route from Santa Clarita to Trona and back, due to the Federal Government shutdown which prevented the race from passing through Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. Two hundred and forty-nine racers competed, the largest in race history.
In 2014, squeezed out of Death Valley National Park by increasingly unrealistic permitting requirements and negativity from the Park Superintendent, Chris moved the race to the great state of Nevada, providing racers and crews with a breathtaking and challenging new route on which to continue the 31-year legacy of the event, now organized under the moniker "Silver State 508." The first Nevada champions were Marko Baloh and Sarah Cooper.
Chris poured great amounts of energy and excitement in hosting The 508 in Nevada, based in Reno. The route is fabulous and photogenic and Chris also had personal experience with it from the 1987 Race Across America which traversed Highway 50 across Nevada. Chris loved that stretch of America and had wanted to come back ever since. Plus the Nevada locals, officials included, have welcomed The 508 with open arms!
Chris proudly produced and directed The 508 from October 1990 through September of 2016. That’s 27 years of directing The 508, and hands-on involvement with it for 33 of the 34 years it has existed!
After the 2016 race, Chris made the tough decision to pass the reigns of the event over to Jo and Rob Panzera, owners and operators of CCSD Sport Event, a full-time sports events management company. CCSD Sport Event runs its own events, along with providing consulting and logistics management for a variety of one-day and multi-day events throughout California and the United States. Many times CCSD Sport Event's logistics management focuses on charity events, giving back to the community that has given us so much.
Rob and Jo bring over 25 years of cycling experience and 15 years of endurance sports event direction with them to the event. Jo’s background is in national level competitive rowing in the United Kingdom, plus competitive endurance cycling events, with a 508 finish under her belt as part of the 2011 record-setting Four Woman Pine Martens team. Rob has crew chiefed for two separate 4 person 508 teams (both record setters at the time, 2010 and 2011), along with crew chiefing for a Race Across The West (RAW) solo completion and a Race Across America (RAAM) solo completion. Jo and Rob have also worked on the 508 staff several times over the past few years.
The 2017 race, CCSD Sport Event’s inaugural directorship, was a great success with a diverse field and exciting racing action. From a two-up solo racer battle into late in the race, and many first time solo racers making it to the finish on their first go. Teams were well-represented with many new additions teaming up with seasoned veterans.
With excitement and eagerness, CCSD Sport Event is committed to serving the current veterans of The 508 and expanding the community by reaching more racers and crew in the coming years. While working to grow the race by reaching out to new and potential team and solo racers, along with working toward modified formats to serve the every changing cycling demographic, CCSD Sport Event is committed to retaining the community and competitive level it has become famous for throughout the world.
We thank all of our competitors, crew, and volunteers for contributing to the rich history and pageantry of this classic ultra cycling race, which is revered the world over for its epic mountain climbs, stark desert scenery, desolate roads, and its reputation as one of the toughest but most gratifying endurance challenges available, bar none!