Spirit Challenge marks start of running season

Weather will have impact on turnout for Saturday event

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— For local running series director Emily Conjura, Saturday is the first day of a new season.
"The Spirit Challenge has always marked the start of my summer," Conjura said.
The director of the Clif Bar Steamboat Springs Running Series noted that the weather can be pretty unpredictable this time of year; however, she said the race is the first chance for local runners to gather for the season.
The race holds a special place for many runners who want to get back out and compete after a long winter. Last year, Old Man Winter wasn't ready to yield. But Conjura said 75 local racers braved one last shot of snow and cold to take part in the race. She said, in the warmer years, the series opener will generally draw more than 100 racers to the parking lot of the Strawberry Park Middle School to take part in either the 5- or 10-kilometer races.
There is also a children's walk-a-thon (which draws another 100-120 kids) held at the same time on the middle school track. Both events help raise money for the Legacy Education Foundation.
"The runners (in the 5k and 10k events) play an important role," race organizer Mary Beth Strotbeck said. "Their registrations help to cover the expense of the event, so that the money from the walk-a-thon can go to the foundation."
Conjura said that the Spirit is normally one of the most successful races of the series because the local running community is ready to get going. But the weather can affect turnout.
"Lets hope for a nice, warm and sunny day," Conjura said. "That always seems to get more runners out."
The 5-kilomter race is a loop, which takes runners out Amethyst, around the back of the school and winds them back through Butcher Knife Canyon to the finish.
The 10-kilometer takes runners out through Strawberry Park toward the Whiteman School and back.
Both scenic Strawberry Park courses offer runners a chance to run on dirt and paved roads.
Cost to enter the race is $12 (with T-shirt) or $10 (no T-shirt) before Wednesday. Runners can wait until the day of the race to register, but the cost increases to $15 and does not include the T-shirt.
Race day registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and the races will start promptly at 10 a.m.

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