Shannon Carlin is taking over the Steamboat Springs Running Series this year. Carlin is a running enthusiast who played collegiate basketball in Virginia before moving to Denver and then Steamboat.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Shannon Carlin is taking over the Steamboat Springs Running Series this year. Carlin is a running enthusiast who played collegiate basketball in Virginia before moving to Denver and then Steamboat.

New director of Steamboat Running Series thrilled about opportunity

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2008 schedule

Saturday, Spirit Challenge

June 1 Steamboat Marathon

June 7 Hayden Cog Run

June 29 USATF 10k Trail National Championship

July 4 Steamboat Sprint

July 6 Mountain Madness

July 12 Howelsen Hill 8-Miler

July 26 Spring Creek Memorial

Aug. 1 and 2 Wild West Relay

Aug. 2 Mt. Werner Classic

Aug. 17 Contential Divide Trail Run

Sept. 7 10k at 10,000 feet

Sept. 13 Kremmling Road Kill

Sept. 20 Run for Literacy

— Shannon Carlin sat at a table in Steaming Bean Coffee in downtown Steamboat Springs and was finally surrounded by like-minded folks.

Since finishing up a college basketball scholarship at Marymount University in Arlington, Va., Carlin has barely been able to walk into a room without organizing its occupants for fitness activities.

When she worked in the East Coast corporate world immediately after graduating college, she led the charge to keep her co-workers fit, enlisting them in running and biking groups and signing them up for competitive weekend runs.

After ditching that environment to return to school for a master's degree that would allow her to teach, she moved to Denver. Her life didn't change in the West, and she again led the way, teaching elementary school physical education, coaching sports and enrolling students in off-hours running programs.

"I was just passionate about fitness, running and all of it," Carlin explained. "I love getting people into sports."

Finally, in Steamboat, Carlin said she found an audience that didn't need prodding. Rather than start the group and push the participants to get outdoors, Carlin is now faced with an entirely new challenge. She's taking over the immensely popular Steamboat Springs Running Series, replacing John Chapman, who helped turn the summer-long, 14-race extravaganza into one of the best series in the nation.

"I'm nervous about it, but it's a good nervous," she said. "I'm really excited about it."

The Steamboat Springs Running Series kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday with the Spirit Challenge, a 5- and 10-kilometer race beginning at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

The series, highlighted by the June 1 Steamboat Marathon, half marathon and 10K, runs through the summer and into September, when it will conclude Sept. 20 with the 23rd annual Run for Literacy.

The organization is coming along well, said Carlin, who was quick to acknowledge the still-guiding hand of Chapman, who left Steamboat for a job in Denver.

Her first goal is to keep everything on track with what he established. That means keeping the races stocked with participants, from near and far. It means keeping everything running smoothly and it means ensuring ample corporate sponsorship.

"John gained so much exposure for the series. He was really great with it," she said. "He's been a big help for me. I'm excited to get it kicked off, but it has approached quickly."

A perfect fit

Carlin may be custom-made for her new task. And Steamboat, she said, is the perfect place for it and her.

Despite her efforts to stay active where she worked, near Washington, D.C., a few vacation trips to Colorado soon made her realize she longed to live near the mountains.

After three years in Denver, she realized that even the Mile High City wasn't close enough.

"When I worked in Denver, I realized every weekend I was driving to whatever mountain to ski or camp," she said. "A couple of my friends moved up here, and it seemed like a great idea, so I decided to move into the mountains and check it out."

The ever-present love for the outdoors that radiates from Steamboat proved enough to pull Carlin in.

"Steamboat just has a different allure to it, different than Vail or Aspen," she said. "It feels like a real town, and that's what I was looking for.

"There's a more relaxed feel here," she continued. "I realized I have more time in my day. I'm not commuting. I can walk and do errands. I can run and do errands or bike and do errands. That's the beauty of this town."

She's taken full advantage. At Big Agnes, she found a job and coworkers as eagerly athletic as she is, and in the running series, she found something to organize and dedicate herself to.

Carlin comes with plenty of experience on the trails, both those around Steamboat and around the nation. She's competed in marathons and triathlons, and she has run several times in the Steamboat series, even before she moved to town last August. She's taught snowboarding lessons and has picked up skiing, recently adding telemark skiing and skate skiing to her repertoire.

She didn't even have to wait to move to Steamboat to be indoctrinated in what exactly it means to be an outdoors fanatic on the far side of Rabbit Ears Pass.

"Oddly enough, when I lived out east, I came to Steamboat for the marathon weekend, and it snowed," she said. "I was a naÃive East Coaster in my shorts and running tank top, and there was five inches of snow. From the East Coast, that was a good life lesson."

That wintry June blast wasn't enough to keep her away, however. Instead, she said she's thrilled to take charge of one of the Yampa Valley's signature events.

"I just love to get people active," she said. "The best thing about running, and especially this race series, is you meet so many great people. Whether you're motivating them or they are motivating you, whether you are running with a girls group or just some friends, it's just a great sport to bring people together."

- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

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