8-mile running event debuts Saturday

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— Walter Magill is one of Steamboat Springs' many local runners who train on the backyard network of trails weaving through Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain. This Saturday, Magill is directing the Howelsen Hill 8 Miler to give fellow runners and visiting competitors a chance to compete on the prime trails.

Magill said he decided to plan the race after the Steamboat Springs Running Series dropped the unpopular "Hounds and Hare" race held on Howelsen Hill the past two years.

"It was a funky, unique format that didn't turn a lot of people on," running series director John Chapman said of the defunct race that left competitors hunting for the correct trail.

This year's format will be an eight-mile loop starting at 9:10 a.m. from the Howelsen Hill parking lot adjacent to the tennis courts. Leaving the parking lot, the pavement ends and the challenging trail run begins, heading up the Bluffs Loop trail behind the stables to the Lupine trails that wind their way up Howelsen.

"It looks steep, but it's not as steep as some of the races," Chapman said. "It's good for intermediate runners, and you can stay at a nice pace, gradually grinding up the mountain until the 'Steamboat Moab' section."

This final section of steep and rocky trail may require runners to slow to a hiking pace, but after finishing the short section and topping out at the Emerald Mountain Limestone Quarry, where Magill plans to have a water station, runners can cruise back down through rolling forest traverses along Blackmere Drive.

"We gave it a 3 on a difficulty scale of 5," Magill said. "The trails are bone dry, so runners shouldn't be losing their footing."

Magill hopes to get the course set before Saturday, for which he estimates a turnout of 50 to 60 participants, so that he too can race on some of his favorite trails.

Registration costs $20 until noon Friday at Christy Sports, 1835 Central Place Plaza, or $25 when you register online at www.active.com or at 8 a.m. Saturday at the race.

The 8 Miler is the only 2006 running series event where sponsor Salomon will be present for product raffles and prize give-aways.

Race proceeds go toward the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. Development director Sheila Wright said the funds will support the Yampa Valley Science School, a sixth-grade environmental education camp.

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