Get ready to run

Spirit Challenge kicks off Steamboat series

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— Longer days and spring sun fuel John Chapman's hopes for Steamboat Springs' potential as a runner's paradise.

"Get off the treadmill and get outside," Chapman said, hoping to inspire locals to emerge from winter hibernation for at least a walk, or hopefully, a run.

It's hard to blame him for his restless enthusiasm. As director of the 2006 Steamboat Springs Running Series, Chapman has planned events for a race series that is not only the state's longest but also its largest in terms of events and participants.

"We are the running series for all of Northwest Colorado," Chapman said.

Chapman estimates that the series' 14 events will yield about 4,000 participants. Between 30 percent and 40 percent of the runners will be out-of-town visitors.

The series kicks off May 6 with the 21st annual Spirit Challenge. The race includes a 10-kilometer and 5-kilometer run/walk in addition to a walk-a-thon to raise money for the Legacy Education Foundation.















May 6: Spirit ChallengeMay 20: Hayden Cog RunJune 4: Steamboat MarathonJune 17: Hot Springs Short CutJuly 1: Spring Creek MemorialJuly 4: Steamboat SprintJuly 9: Mountain MadnessJuly 15: Howelsen Hill 8-MilerAug. 5: Mount Werner ClassicAug. 11-12: Wild West Relay (24 hours)Aug. 20: Continental DivideSept. 3: 10K at 10,000 FeetSept. 9: Kremmling Road KillSept. 24: Steamboat Pilot & Today Run for Literacy

The first challenging race of the series -- sure to lure competitive racers statewide -- will be the 28th annual Hayden Cog Run on May 20.

"It's a pretty intense race up the Hayden Cog, a really steep hill north of town with a lot of sharp turns," Hayden Parks and Recreation Supervisor and Cog Run director JD Paul said.

Paul predicts between 60 and 80 runners will participate in the Cog Run, slightly less than the average of 80 to 100 that Chapman expects for the summer and early fall events, which attract more tourists. The exception is the June 4 Steamboat Marathon, which is expected to draw about 2,500 participants.

"The marathon is really Colorado's marquee marathon. A lot of marathoners want to run a marathon in each state," Chapman said.

"They come to Colorado for the Steamboat Marathon. It's so scenic. It's made Runner's World Magazine's Top 10 list," he said.

For recreational runners who balk at the thought of 26 painful miles, Chapman said each race will feature a long and short course, some only a few miles long.

With better chances of winning within age groups for the shorter courses, Chapman encourages runners to participate in as many runs as possible, amassing points totaled for a prize giveaway at the end of the series.

"A lot of people walk the races, but it's all about finishing the course and completion," Chapman said.

Pre-race registration for all series races (except for the marathon and 24-hour Wild West Relay) is available at www.active.com or at Christy Sports by mid-May for $20. Race-day registration is $25.

Until the races begin, Chap--man wants runners to get outside but to steer clear of trail degradation by sticking to the Yampa River Core Trail, the Emerald Mountain quarry road or the sunnier, dry Mad Creek trail off Routt County Road 129.

--o reach Dave Shively, call 846-1129 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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