Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Running Series had its season-ending race nearly three weeks ago, with the final finisher in that race unofficially wrapping up running season in Routt County.
It was hard to tell Wednesday evening. Eight bright-eyed Steamboat Springs Middle School sixth-graders took off running, then skipping, down U.S. Highway 40, cutting through the fall foliage west of town and along the Yampa River into Steamboat Springs.
They were there for the man in the middle, Marshall Ulrich. And he was there for them.
Ulrich was one of two runners in Steamboat on Wednesday. He and Charlie Engle passed through as a part of their mission to run across the United States in a record time of 45 days.
Their mission is to raise money for United Way, and more specifically, to fight childhood obesity.
"Wasn't that crazy? That was great," Ulrich said. "I haven't run with very many people. Believe me, in Utah and Nevada, there aren't that many people you bump into at all."
The 3,200-mile jaunt from sea to shining sea is being filmed for the documentary "Running America," which producers hope to release in 2009.
The expedition is far from a new experience for either man. Engle ran a 111-day, 4,500-mile journey across the Sahara Desert.
Ulrich, meanwhile, blazed a trail as an adventurer. The Idaho Springs resident is a record-setting adventure racer, has summitted the tallest peak on each of the world's seven continents and has finished 116 ultra marathons.
The coast-to-coast trip has come with several unexpected hurdles, however.
Engle, running several hours ahead of Ulrich, was in Steamboat on Wednesday morning but didn't advance any farther, choosing to seek medical attention for lingering injuries.
Ulrich pulled into Craig on Wednesday just after midnight, then was up and running again bright and early. He buzzed Hayden and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport around noon and reached the western edge of Steamboat Springs at about 7 p.m. Wednesday evening.
Pace for pace with Ulrich was the group of middle school runners. The expedition allowed volunteers to sign up to run in the record-breaking venture. That prospect proved too much for the students to ignore.
A minivan with a TV crew hanging out the back led the way, and the pack of children kept up with Ulrich as he made his final turns into Steamboat.
"That's always great, because to go out there and just keep running and running with no one to talk to gets pretty boring," Ulrich said. "The energy level they had was fantastic."
- To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org