Mountain Madness celebrates 25 years

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— The course speaks for itself.

Challenging, scenic and now much easier to follow, the Mountain Madness Half Marathon celebrates its 25th anniversary July 13. Only the Hayden Cog Run can match the Mountain Madness Half Marathon and 10K in longevity in the Steamboat Springs area.

Originally created in 1978 with the intention that it would remain a locals'-only race, the half marathon took participants from Howelsen Hill out River Road and eventually connected with Colorado Highway 131 and U.S. Highway 40.

Racers re-entered Steamboat on U.S 40, then went up Walton Creek Road to AprÃs Ski Way, and back down Mount Werner Road to River Road where race participants returned to the start/finish area at the base of Howelsen.

"It used to be the grand tour," former race director Patrick Browning said. "We changed the course because of the increase in traffic. U.S. 40 was getting pretty dangerous and we were becoming concerned. Plus, there is a train that went through part of the course. We had to put on the entry form that there was a train that could stop a runner and there was nothing we could do about it."

Revisions to the half-marathon course allowed racers to spend the entire race on one side of the tracks, while preserving its difficulty and scenic beauty.

For the past 10 years, racers have started at Howelsen Hill and have gone out River Road to the first entrance at the Dakota Ridge neighborhood. Racers take a road-only tour of the area on an incline before they exit, and eventually return to Steamboat on River Road.

"This is a prettier run," said Bill Dapper, a former participant and director of mountain operations for Christy Sports. "And it makes it a little easier to manage to get some realistic times. It gets people off the highway."

There is another change that will be implemented this year, and it might prove to be the most beneficial of all.

When Christy Sports took over supervision of the race in the mid-1990s, the business found the prizes, made the T-shirts and took care of other expenses required in putting on a running race in town.

To find the best use for the proceeds raised from the race and to perhaps encourage more participants, a relationship between Humble Ranch and Christy Sports has been formulated in the 25th year of the race to send all proceeds raised from the Mountain Madness Half Marathon and 10K to Humble Ranch, a ranch that offers hippotherapy, or therapy using horses, and various activities designed to assist people with special physical, mental or emotional needs.

"This is a future direction we want to take this race," said Chuck O'Connell, Steamboat area manager of Christy Sports. "This isn't just because it's the 25th anniversary."

People interested in racing in the half marathon or 10K can sign up at the Central Park Christy Sports Store or at www.active.com for a discounted rate of $15 until race day.

On race day, runners also are welcome to register at the start/finish area at Howelsen for $20.

The 2-mile fun run is free.

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