Steamboat Springs Running Series racers prepare for a rugged run
Spring Creek Memorial race cuts through thick, private forest
July 23, 2010
If you go
What: Spring Creek Memorial race
When: 8 a.m. Saturday for the 9-mile race, 8:30 a.m. for the 5-kilometer race
Where: The race starts on the Spring Creek Trail near the pond, about half a mile up from the trailhead. Parking is limited, so walk or ride a bike. Overflow parking is at Steamboat Springs High School.
Cost: The race costs $25. To register, visit Ski Haus or http://www.runningseries.com
Steamboat Springs — There may not be a dirt trail more popular for local runners than Spring Creek, but any athletes expecting a leisurely, familiar jog during Saturday's annual Spring Creek Memorial are in for a surprise.
The Steamboat Springs Running Series challenges competitors with some of the most difficult trail runs in the area, and despite its relatively tame location, the Spring Creek race, which starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, will be no different.
"It's very challenging," said Deb Freeman, the 2008 women's Running Series champion who's again leading the pack this year with her "always show up, always finish" motto. "It's different. There were a lot of grunts last year, but people really enjoy it. It's challenging but beautiful."
It's the 9-mile course that had Freeman in awe, but there's also a shorter, easier 5-kilometer race that starts at 8:30 a.m.
Runners in the 9-mile course break away from the traditional trail, up through a thick forest that required race volunteers to work for hours Thursday just to clear the path.
"This is one of those really rugged trail experiences," Running Series director Cara Marrs said. "It's pretty rough."
Marrs said that stretch is more game trail than anything else, difficult enough that the pack often gives up "running" and falls in line, one after another simply hiking up toward more open terrain.
"The times will be even slower this year," Marrs said. "There are monstrous downed trees over the trail — not trees you can jump over, but big, huge ones you have to crawl over."
The 9-mile course continues up to Dry Lake on Buffalo Pass before descending down the familiar Spring Creek Trail to the finish line at the reservoir near the trailhead.
That style of the second half of the course almost serves as a reward for surviving the first half, Freeman said.
"Once you get to the top, you know you just have to run down Spring Creek, and that's a thrill," she said.
The 5K race, meanwhile, is much more traditional, an out and back on the popular trail.
"It's still not easy," Marrs said. "It's more difficult than most 5Ks."
Saturday's race is significant for two other reasons. First, it was established in memory of Patty Brenner Hagberg, who was hit and killed by a truck on the Spring Creek road in 1991, and today it is meant to serve as a reminder of the necessity to safely share multi-use trails and roads.
Second, most races in the Running Series benefit designated charities, but Saturday's is the only one that actually helps fund the series itself.
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org