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 was first staged in May of 1983. The 762-mile course made seven and a half laps around the 100-mile loop formerly used in the second half of the Hemet Double Century in Southern California. The winner of the inaugural race was Michael Secrest. 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 event next became known as the John Marino Open West, as Lon and Susan Haldeman had begun staging a JMO Midwest in Illinois. 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 to foster a more evident affiliation between RAAM and all its Qualifiers.
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. Reasons for the relocation included the desire for a quieter, safer course and increased accessibility to the race by riders, crew, and staff. The first champion on what we know as the Furnace Creek 508 course was John Hughes, who also won it again in 1993.
In the fall of 1990, John Marino granted the rights to the event to Chris Kostman, then operating as Kostman Sport Group (now AdventureCORPS). Chris was a finisher of the May 1985 Hemet and October 1986 Arizona John Marino Open proto-508 races as well as the 1987 Race Across AMerica, and had worked on the JMO staff in 1984 through 1989 and the Race Across America staff in 1985, 1986, and 1989. (See more about that history here.) To say Chris was enthralled with the sport would be a massive understatement: he looked up to Marino as his mentor and loved everything about ultracycling, so he jumped at the chance to produce and promote the race. As such, since October 1990, The 508 has been proudly directed by Chris Kostman. Operating under the AdventureCORPS banner, he gets a ton of help from an incredible race staff every year.
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."
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, and the route was so popular that a new sister race was born in 2015, The Trona 308, which was held in May of 2014.
In 2014 the 508-mile race was moved 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."
This 508-mile bicycle race 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. Over the past twenty-five years, The 508 has become recognized as the premier 48-hour ultracycling race in the world and "The Toughest 48 hours in Sport."