After a dozen running races in Steamboat Springs, it looks as if the end-of-season titles in the Steamboat Springs Running Series will come down to today's Run for Literacy.
The Run for Literacy will not be the final event of the summer-long series, but it marks the last time runners can collect points toward series titles. The final race, the Emerald Mountain Potluck Race, will not factor into the final series standings and is designed to act as an anchor for the end-of-season awards party that will follow the races.
"This will be the last points race of the season," series director Heather Eller said of the Run for Literacy. "But it will be an important one -- the standings could really change depending on who wins."
Currently, Nate Anderson is at the top of the standings with 151 points, but Andy Picking (146) and several other runners are within reach of the overall title that goes to the athlete with the most points.
Picking, who was undecided about running in the event at the end of the week, said winning the season title would be nice, but that it's not why he enjoys running.
"I'm good friends with Nate," Picking said. "I enjoy running with those guys, and there is a lot of camaraderie that goes along with this series."
Picking said that although the runners often earn the spotlight for winning races, it's the race organizers and series organizers, such as Eller and Tasha Thrasher, who deserve much of the credit for making each event enjoyable.
The Run for Literacy will include a five-kilometer run, a five-kilometer racewalk and a seven-mile run. There also will be a one-third-mile Tot Trot for Steamboat's youngest runners.
Today's seven-mile run begins at 9:30 a.m. The 5K run and racewalk begins at 9:40 a.m. The Tot Trot starts at 10:45 a.m. Awards and drawings will follow.
All races begin in the parking lot of the Steamboat Pilot & Today offices, on the west edge of town just off U.S. Highway 40.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. at the newspaper offices.
The 5K race will take advantage of the scenic trails and roads near the newspaper office. The course is a pleasant, scenic run that begins with a flat, smooth stretch under the trees along the Yampa River Core Trail. At the Depot Art Center, runners turn right onto Twentymile Road for the race's only steep climb into the Fairview Subdivision, organizer Melissa Roddy said.
From Fairview, runners will take a smooth single-track trail to the historic Lithia Springs before returning to Twentymile Road and heading over the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge and back to the finish at the newspaper office.
The seven-mile run is a scenic, but challenging hill climb.
"It's a great chance to take in the early fall colors from Emerald Mountain -- if you aren't breathing too hard to enjoy them," Roddy said.
Runners will begin the race at the newspaper office before heading across the James Brown bridge. Runners will then climb through Fairview to Blackmer Drive and then up the back side of Howelsen Hill. They will follow the dirt and rock road to the old sandstone quarry.
Runners will descend back to the Howelsen Hill saddle along Emerald Mountain's newly rebuilt single track.
Because of the additional mileage added along the new singletrack, the end of the race has been rerouted slightly. On the descent, after hitting Blackmer Drive at the Howelsen saddle, runners will retrace their steps down to the base of Routt Street.
From there, they will turn right, follow a singletrack trail to the Depot, and follow the Core Trail to the race's finish line.
Roddy said there are plenty of challenging sections to the seven-mile race, but there are also areas of breathtaking beauty.
"The seven-mile run will take advantage of some newly rebuilt and rerouted singletrack on Howelsen Hill," Roddy said. "Runners will enjoy part of the Lupine Loop, a beautifully smooth, moderately pitched trail that winds through stands of aspens as the course brings runners back down the mountain."
The bottom line for the race, however, has more to do with education than it does with winning.
The proceeds from the race will be used for the Newspapers in Education program.
The Pilot's NIE program provides newspapers and learning materials to school children in Routt County to help educate them about their community, nation and world.
The Run for Literacy is held in conjunction with First Impressions Tot Trot, an opportunity for some of Routt County's youngest runners to help older students through the "I Cent a Student to College" scholarship fund.
To enter the fun, one-third-mile race, the youngsters are encouraged to save as many pennies as they can, and bring them to the race.
The money will be collected and used to help send Routt County high school graduates to college.