Running Series hits the dirt starting Saturday

Howelsen Hill 8-Miler awaits racing enthusiasts Saturday

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If you go

What: Howelsen Hill 8-Miler

Where: The race begins at Howelsen Lodge at the base of Howelsen Hill in downtown Steamboat Springs

When: 8 a.m. Saturday

Cost: Racers can register for $25 on the day of the race or for $20 in advance. Registration is available at Ski Haus until noon today and online at www.runningseries...>

— Harry Niedl barely even waited to catch his breath early Sunday morning after finishing the 10-kilometer run at the Mountain Madness event in Steamboat Springs. He was quickly back jogging, moving back up River Road as a steady stream of racers ran past him toward the finish.

"I won," he said later, beaming. "It's the first race I've won in the Running Series."

Niedl said the win was important to achieving his goal of winning the season-long Running Series championship.

But that wasn't the only thing that left him too excited to sit still.

Sunday's race was the last Steamboat Springs Running Series event this year that will take place entirely on roads. Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday morning with the Howelsen Hill 8-Miler, the Running Series now will stick to area trails.

"I've been waiting for that," Niedl said. "I like running on the trails a lot more than I do the road. It's great that we're finally getting to those races."

Niedl and all the competitors who show up for Saturday's race can expect a healthy serving of singletrack.

The event features the namesake 8-Miler, as well as a 4-mile race.

"It's a good chance to see a lot of Howelsen," race director Walter Magill said. "A lot of people might bike it, but they don't know it for running. The race is a good showcase for the trails to be used as running trails."

The race won't likely prove the most challenging that Running Series regulars will encounter. The Hayden Cog Run is a more demanding climb. The Continental Trail Divide run is twice as long, and the 10K at 10,000 Feet is higher.

"It runs pretty flat, though we do get up to the quarry," said Magill, who is organizing the event for the fourth year and also will be a competitor.

The trail climbs 800 feet in five miles.

"But the way they've built the trails, they don't really feel steep," Magill added.

The race is the fourth this year that counts toward the season-long Running Series championship. Last month's Steamboat Marathon and the July 4 Steamboat Sprint didn't award any points.

Ultra-marathon guru Allen Belshaw currently leads the men's standings. He was fourth in last weekend's Mountain Madness half marathon, but he won the season-opening Spirit Challenge and hasn't missed a race.

With 54 points, he holds a two-point edge on Niedl, who has yet to finish lower than third in any race.

John Nyen and Jim Rebenack are tied for a distant third, with 39 points.

Hannah Williams leads the women's race with 47 points. She won the 10K at the Hayden Cog Run and otherwise has been in the top six at each race.

Deb Freeman, last year's women's champion, is second with 43 points, and Lisa Adams is third with 39.

After Saturday's event, four point-awarding races remain.

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