More than 1,100 registered for weekend’s Steamboat Stinger | SteamboatToday.com

More than 1,100 registered for weekend’s Steamboat Stinger

Runners head up Emerald Mountain during the 2015 Steamboat Stinger trail marathon event in Steamboat Springs. The Stinger returns this weekend. As usual, it will have a full mountain bike race. This year, however, it will also have a full running race for the first time.

The bike race came first, in 2011, but that's not the only reason the running race — a full trail marathon — has always seemed like the event after the event at Steamboat Stinger.

For many of the race organizers, mountain biking was always the first passion, and putting on a mountain bike race was where they were most comfortable.

Putting on a running race took some learning, but, as the Stinger bike race heads into its seventh year and the running race into its sixth, those lessons have been learned, and the word has spread.

The bicycle race, 50 miles on Emerald Mountain trails starting at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, has traditionally sold out quickly, and again this year, is filled to the brim.

For the first time, the running event, with races of both 26.2 and 13.1 miles and starting at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. respectively on Sunday, has filled as well.

"Most of us came in with a biking background, so we had to learn how to make it a premier event for runners, too," said Nate Bird, course director for both races. "We had to learn runners' needs."

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That took some time. The first year the running race was conducted organizers simply re-stocked the on-course aid stations they'd used the day before — three stations on course and one essentially at the finish.

That infrastructure didn't work nearly as well for an athlete on foot as it had for one on two wheels.

"Our biggest issue was the number of aid stations and the distance between them," Bird said. "Obviously it takes a lot longer to cover that ground running than it does on a bike. We unintentionally punished some of our runners that first year."

In the years since, the aid stations have more than doubled for the run. There are now three more manned aid stations, plus two un-manned stations.

That's paid off for runners, and they've spread the word. The last few years have averaged about 300 finishers.

Weekend race director Sara Tlamka said some extra marketing effort was put in on behalf of the running race this summer, and that, plus the success of recent years, helped this year's race top out with 400 registered athletes tackling either the full- or half-marathon courses.

"In the world of running, ultra running and technical races are growing, and we've gotten some recognition as being a challenging marathon and half marathon," she said. "This isn't your traditional road run in the city."

Those 400 runners will join more than 700 cyclists — about 200 are part of a two-person team, so only 500 will be on course at any time — who will ride in Saturday's race to make it more than 1,100 registered participants for the weekend full of racing.

The afternoon storms this week have helped put the Emerald Mountain trails in top shape and organizers are eager to be back at it, especially now that they feel they've gotten a good grip on both the mountain biking and running side of their event.

"It's been a crazy week, but we're also moving into year seven of this, so our team is a well oiled machine. Everyone knows their role, and we have huge staff participation," Tlamka said. "We can't make it work without our staff or without this great community. You can't put on an event that requires 50 volunteers without a community like Steamboat."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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