Steamboat Springs Seasoned Steamboat Marathon racer Jason Saitta had some words of advice for first-timers.
"Know your course," he said Friday afternoon, sitting at work, waiting for the Memorial Day weekend. "This one starts out on a downhill. I know they have a course profile on the Web site. It makes it look like if you stop running, you are going to fall down the hill, which is not the case. It's very rolling."
Saitta is seeking his sixth Steamboat Marathon title, and he shared some good news and bad news Friday.
The good news -- for him -- is, "I'm definitely in better shape than in previous years. My time should be significantly better assuming there is someone to run with. It's hard to push by yourself."
The bad news -- for anyone else aspiring to win -- is, "I'm definitely in better shape than in previous years."
The Steamboat Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K are June 4, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the race, which has expanded through the years.
All three races are on paved surfaces and begin at 7:30 a.m. June 4. The commotion in downtown Steamboat Springs begins at about the same time, so it's a good reason to get out of bed and compete, volunteer or support the runners.
"People love this race," said Jody Anagnos, special events director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Assoc--iation. "They love to come up here. They love Steamboat. The reputation of this event stands on its own."
Most of the participants in all three races are from out of town, though most are from Colorado.
Steamboat's Marathon and Half Marathon are endurance races that begin in North Routt. Both are more difficult than most races because of the altitude.
"Coming up to altitude, I don't think there is a lot you can do to compensate for that piece," Saitta said.
Unlike most marathons, which are held in cities, Steamboat's race is held on Routt County Road 129, a winding course with limited access for spectators.
"The cows are your spectators," Saitta joked.
But he enjoys the beauty and the challenge. Last year, Saitta won in 2 hours, 41 minutes and 2 seconds. He wants to run faster.
"I actually hired a coach in July of last year -- right after Steamboat," Saitta said. "He's had me do large variations during workouts that I probably wouldn't have done on my own. Twice a week, we do speed work. I noticed that I recover a lot faster than I had been. My last two races have been 50Ks, which are longer than a marathon."
Saitta won the U.S. 50K Championships in March in Long Island, N.Y.
He plans on running the Bolder Boulder on Monday, which is a 10K race.
"But I'm not going to race," he said. "I'm just going to hop on a team and just run it."
Saitta will run every day leading up to the Steamboat Marathon, "but they'll be easy runs."
Half Marathon champions Kelly Carlson and Brad Pace also are returning to try to defend their titles, which they won convincingly last spring.
With more than 2,100 runners expected to participate, Anagnos has been busy working out the logistics of putting on one of Steamboat's most popular summer events.
"I have my own marathon," she said. "It's called 'running the marathon' marathon. It's very rewarding afterward. You should see the letters we get. We get such positive feedback."