Finding shortcuts

Hot springs run encourages 'cheating'

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— In this race, cutting corners, finding shortcuts and making your own path is not only legal, it's encouraged.

"It's fine to cheat on this one," Hot Springs Shortcut organizer Bill Philip said. "Normally we follow the rules, we don't cut corners and we always stay on course -- but not in this one."

The idea behind the 18th annual Hot Springs Shortcut running and walking race, which will be held on May 24, is to find your own course from the downtown hot springs to the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

A mountain biking division is also held, but riders don't get the freedom to chose their own paths.

The only thing runners know for sure is that they will start the race at 9 a.m. in front of the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center Saturday and finish roughly seven miles later at the Strawberry Park Hot Springs. But what happens between those two points is pretty much up to the runners.

Philip said the best shortcuts might cut off 200 or 300 yards. But in the past, runners have gone to a lot of trouble to uncover the shortest route to the finish.

Philip said runners like Ed Cope (who no longer lives in Steamboat) and Paul Sachs have become legendary for finding those short courses.

Some runners have even tried to follow them in the past -- usually with limited success.

"Paul usually ends up winning this one by a couple of minutes," Philip said. "He's a very good runner and hard to keep up with."

Runner Emily Conjura said the Shortcut is one of the most enjoyable races of the season, but admits that the starting line can be a confusing place.

"People are going in a hundred different directions right off the bat," Conjura said. "It is difficult if you're not familiar with the course or you are from out of town."

Conjura said the mass start creates two types of runners -- those who find their own trails and those who follow.

"You can try to follow someone, but that can really backfire," Conjura said. "Most of the shortcuts are at the start of the race, by the time you reach Routt County Road 36 there are not a lot of options."

The race is the third in the Steamboat Springs Running Series and the last one before the Steamboat Marathon June 1. In addition to the running race that begins at 9 a.m. there will also be a walk at 8 a.m. and a bike race that starts at 9:30 a.m.

Unlike the runners and walkers, the mountain bikers must follow a prescribed route that starts behind the post office, heads up Fish Creek Falls Road to Amethyst Drive. It then follows Amethyst until it becomes Routt County Road 36.

Bikers will then follow that road to the finish line in front of the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

The course is more than seven miles and climbs about 1,000 vertical feet.

Runners, walkers and bikers can register before May 22 at Christy Sports for $20.

They can also register the day of the race at Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center starting at 7:30 a.m. for $25.

Entry fee includes a hat, admission to both hot springs, and a post race lunch catered by the Steamboat Smokehouse.

There will be a drawing for a season pass to the Steamboat Ski Touring Center and other prizes.

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