Steamboat Springs Running Series kicks off Saturday |

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Steamboat Springs Running Series kicks off Saturday

Roberto Mandje trains on a track in Boulder. Mandje

Roberto Mandje trains on a track in Boulder. Mandje, who competed in the 2004 Olympics and is training for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, will compete Saturday in the Steamboat Springs Running Series' opening event, the Spirit Challenge.

— Welcome back, Steamboat Springs Running Series.

The 2012 edition of the annual series kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday with the Spirit Challenge. The event features 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer races; both begin at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

The event is a fundraiser for the Yampa Valley Autism Program, with proceeds being donated in the name of Jenna Gruben Morrill.

"It's a little bit of a trail run and a little bit of a rolling course," race director Cara Marrs said.

The 5-kilometer race begins the school and does a loop around Strawberry Park Road and Amethyst Drive before returning to the school.

The 10-kilometer course goes out of Strawberry Park past the turnoff to Buffalo Pass before hitting a turnaround spot before The Lowell Whiteman School.

Marrs encouraged people to register early.

Early registration is $25 and is available until noon Friday at Ski Haus. It's also available online until 6 p.m. Friday at

Day-of registration is available, but Marrs said those who register Saturday aren't guaranteed an event T-shirt. Registration also increases by $5. Day-of registration runs from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

Those participating in Saturday's race will get a unique opportunity. As part of his training for the London Olympics, Equatorial Guinea athlete Roberto Mandje will compete in the 5-kilometer race.

Mandje, who ran the 1,500-meter event at the 2004 Olympics, is a Point6-sponsored athlete.

"I'm not expecting anything world class," said Mandje, who said that at sea level and on a track, his 5-kilometer time is about 13:30. "I'm not accustomed to the elevation, it's a road race and it's out and back. But I'm not focused on times. It's a good, hard workout."

To view full course maps or to register for the event, visit

Running Series notes

The season points system for the Running Series will change this year. In the past couple of years, certain distances and certain races garnered points for participants. This year, most of the races and distances will be pointed.

"We wanted people to do the distances that they want to do," Marrs said.

Marrs also encouraged people interested in one of the capped races to register as soon as possible because events already are filling up.

Capped races include the Spring Creek Memorial (July 21), Mount Werner Classic (Aug. 4), Steamboat Stinger (Aug. 12), Continental Divide Trail Run (Aug. 19) and the 10K at 10,000 Feet (Sept. 2).

Local business interested in sponsoring a race or the entire Running Series should email Marrs at

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email