Steamboat’s Fulk-Gray embraces the shorter runs | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s Fulk-Gray embraces the shorter runs

Austin Colbert

Steamboat Springs resident Watkins Fulk-Gray runs down River Road as he nears the finish of Saturday's Mountain Madness 10-kilometer Running Series race in Steamboat. He won the 10K in 35 minutes

— Watkins Fulk-Gray knows his strengths. He knows what he likes, what he is good at, and he plans his races accordingly. And it's for this reason he has been a mainstay atop leaderboards in the Steamboat Springs Running Series this summer.

"I'm not into real long stuff at all. I like running fast," Fulk-Gray said.

In five Running Series races this year, the 25-year-old has finished in the top two of his race each time, including his first-place finish in Saturday's 10-kilometer race of the Mountain Madness road run in Steamboat Springs.

He finished the course, which took runners down River Road toward the Dakota Ridge neighborhood, in 35 minutes, 42 seconds — a new 10K personal record. Taking second was Joshua Smullin (36:08) and third was Davis Miller (36:23). The top female in the 10K was Ann Marie Kirkpatrick in 39:30.

"My best before was in Atlanta on a downhill course. I did well today … I wanted it real bad, and I pushed it from the beginning," Fulk-Gray said. "It's not a flat course. It's rolling hills and sometimes rolling hills can be harder than long, sustained climbs. Obviously, once we turned into Dakota Ridge, that was tough. But we expected it."

Fulk-Gray moved to Steamboat about a year ago from Denver when he took a job with the Routt County Planning Department. He grew up in Arkansas and was a competitive runner in high school but ran only recreationally once he started college.

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One thing he made clear after Saturday's 10K was how much he didn't like long races. Fulk-Gray said his cutoff is around a half marathon, which happened to be the feature race of the Mountain Madness. And even though he sits toward the top of the overall Running Series leaderboard and the 10K race wouldn't award him any points, he stuck to his guns and came away with his second series win of the summer.

"I decided I'd like to do all the shorter races this year," Fulk-Gray said. "Steamboat is great though. There are a lot of hills. Like I said, there is a good community so there are always people to keep you motivated and run with."

Fulk-Gray took second in the 8.4-mile uphill race of the Hayden Cog Run to open the summer series and followed by winning the 10K race of the Spirit Challenge. He only ran the 10K race during the Steamboat Marathon, taking second, and took second again during the 8-mile Howelsen Hill Trail Run two weeks ago.

While he intends to keep running this summer and adding what points he can toward the Running Series title, Fulk-Gray said he has no intentions of trying any of the longer races, such as September's Run Rabbit Run ultras (50 and 100 miles).

Winning Saturday's half marathon was T.J. Thrasher in 1 hour, 27 minutes, 7 seconds. Bryan Goding was runner-up in 1:27:33, and Dan Hohs third in 1:28:58.

Penelope Freedman, the overall Running Series leader, was the top female in 1:35:00, barely edging Heather Gollnick's time of 1:35:43.

The next Running Series race is the Spring Creek Memorial on July 25. The race is a 9-mile trail run along Spring Creek Trail, with an optional 5K run/walk.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert