For the past 28 years, the Hayden Cog Run has challenged runners in the Yampa Valley to step it up -- or at least to run up one of the most challenging hills in Routt County.
Every spring, the steep, winding section of Routt County Road 76 that leads out of Hayden toward Elkhead Reservoir has been the site of one of this valley's most unusual foot races.
"I think the Hayden Cog Run has a reputation as one of the most challenging races in the Steamboat Running Series," race organizer J.D. Paul said. "This race is a good test for any runner."
Runners will get their chance to answer the challenge Saturday on the main course, which stretches a little more than eight miles. The course includes an intense three-mile climb with a 750-foot elevation gain in the middle.
"It's a very challenging hill climb," said Katherine Zamb--rana, who won the women's division last year. "It demands a lot of strength in the hills."
The Cog Run also offers an opportunity for the running community to get together for a fun time.
In addition to the hill climb, there are less intense 10-kilometer and five-kilometer courses. Both of the shorter races, as well as the grueling Cog, will start and finish in Hayden Town Park. "The Cog run has always been a positive racing experience for me," Zambrana said. "It's a good workout, and it has a good community feel."
The event is the only running race held in Hayden during the summer. Last year's event drew between 80 and 100 runners, said Paul, who is the parks and recreation supervisor for Hayden.
Paul is hoping to get a few more runners for this weekend's events.
"We have a few runners in Hayden, but I don't think it compares to what they have in Steamboat," Paul said. "We like to host this race so that our local runners don't always have to go to Steamboat to run."
The races begin at 10 a.m. Saturday. Runners can register the day of the race between 9 and 9:30 a.m.
Pre-registration is available at Hayden Town Hall, Christy Sports in Central Park Plaza or online at active.com. Registration costs $20 before race day, and $25 the day of the race.
Paul said runners should expect the same format as in the past. This is his first year in charge and he hasn't planned any changes for an event, which has been around for more than two decades.
The race is the second of the Steamboat Springs Running Series and will be the last chance for local runners to compete before the Steamboat Marathon, which is June 4.
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