Aaah, summer in Steamboat Springs. The signs are starting to arrive as the water runs from the high peaks into the valley, the green grass is sprouting along mountain trails and, of course, the Steamboat Springs running series is just around the corner.
The first race of the season, The Spirit Challenge, will take place May 5 starting at Steamboat Springs Middle School.
"The Spirit is nice because it's a good warmup," local runner Tenadore Dean said. "It's a good race to see what kind of shape you are after the long winter and it's just a lot of fun."
This year the series will open with three races in May. The Spirit will kick things off on May 5, and it will be followed by the Hayden Cog Run on May 20 and finally the Hot Springs Short Cut Race, which is scheduled for May 26.
Director Emily Conjura said she thinks this year's running series will be bigger and better than every before. She lined up a new title sponsor as Clif Bar (the makers of Clif Bar, Luna Bars and Clif Shots), which has jumped on board. Conjura is also happy to say that for the first time ever runners will be able to register online.
"That's been a longtime goal of mine," Conjura said.
Conjura said it will cost runners a little extra to use the on-line service, which she said she thinks will appeal mainly to out-of-town runners.
"For a couple of bucks someone in Denver can now register to run in one of our races," Conjura said. "I think it will be a big draw for runners who live out of town."
Conjura said the online service is through www.active.com and will allow runners to register for 12 of the 13 Steamboat events. The Spring Creek Memorial will be the only race that will not have online registration.
"If you added up every runner we had last year there were 2,969," Conjura said.
The biggest draw of the 13 event series is still the Steamboat Marathon weekend. However, the other 12 races account for between 900 and a 1,000 additional runners.
"It's a good running series," Dean said. "A number of the runs are very good and there is a lot of variety."
Dean said his favorites include the Spirit Challenge, the marathon weekend and the 10k at 10,000 feet.
"I've always liked the Spirit Challenge because it kicks things off," Dean said. "It's also very well organized."
Conjura spent most of last winter trying to line up a sponsor, so when Clif Bar agreed to pay $500 toward running the series and to give valuable products to the runners who take part, Conjura gladly accepted. She added that she is still looking for additional sponsors to cover the remaining costs.
"It isn't like I'm rolling in money here," Conjura said. "I appreciate the sponsors we have, but we are definitely looking for more."
Conjura said that Clif's participation will be generous, but it will impact the runners more than the series itself.
"They will be offering some great prizes this season and that it great for the athletes who are taking part," Conjura said.
But while lining up sponsors has been a major goal of Conjura she has also taking pride in bring the series into the 21st century.
Conjura has polished up the web site for 2001 allowing running to log onto runningseries.com to get the latest race results and overviews of upcoming events.
This year she connected with active.com to allow runners to register on-line for the first time. She hopes that will attract more runners from Denver and around the county to the Steamboat Running Series.