Joel Reichenberger: Chapman got what he gave

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— We made a big deal last weekend for the grand finale of Triple Crown adult slow-pitch softball in Steamboat Springs, running a preview of the tournament and a big feature Sunday to commemorate the last of the company's 26 years in town.

Elsewhere on the same day, another important piece of the Steamboat Springs sports puzzle bade a much quieter farewell.

John Chapman coordinated his final race as a part of the Steamboat Springs Running Series. With last week's Mountain Madness half marathon and 10K event, Chapman closed a chapter in which the series saw growth and some of its most significant honors.

Chapman took over the running series director's position from Heather Eller in 2006, initially running the series with a committee that included Lisa Barbour, Jill Boyd and Kristen Lodge.

Chapman had plenty of help, from one-time volunteers pitching in at just one race to hard-working coordinators who helped with each individual event. Chapman was always quick to point out his help, but it's hard to ignore the effect he had on the series. It was his savvy marketing that really helped the series grow into a new skin.

The series boasted nearly 3,000 competitors in 2000 but was down to 2,378 by 2005. That number grew to 3,757 in 2006 and topped 4,500 in 2007.

Obviously that's dramatic growth, and it was in large part thanks to several Chapman-led initiatives. The most obvious bump in numbers came from the addition of the U.S. Trail Running National Championships last year and this year.

The event was one of the series' crown jewels in both seasons.

Chapman also was key in spreading series participation to the Front Range. His success in that regard has been evident nearly every week, as Denver-based runners join their Steamboat brethren on the courses and trails. Chapman's focus is what led to the Spring Creek Memorial being named one of the state's top 15 races by Colorado Runner Magazine.

His effort and series advertising along the Front Range helped the entire series earn an even greater honor from the publication - being named the state's best running series last winter.

Chapman did a lot for Steamboat during his time in town, and talking to him as he began to clean up after his final race, it was evident Steamboat did plenty for Chapman, as well.

"It's been fun. It was a lot of work to do, but it was always like a big party with a bunch of your friends," he said. "It felt like you were hosting a party with just running friends. You work late, go out and set the course, and you try to get everything perfect, and it all feels worth it when people come up after a race and say, 'The course was great,' or 'That was a great event.'"

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