BRECKENRIDGE " It's hard to believe, considering last summer's exponential growth, but this year's Nike Summit Trail Running Series could be twice as big as it has ever been.
To wit: Breckenridge recreation coordinator Diane McBride, who spearheads the town of Breck's organizational efforts in putting on the series, said that last year she received about 30 registrations for the six-race series. This year, she said she's already gotten 103 runners signed up for all six races.
McBride noted that some of the increase can be attributed to more runners committing to the entire series, instead of doing it race by race. Nonetheless, the largest field ever to compete in a single race is 94 runners, and this year's numbers indicate that record might not last past Wednesday's series opener at the Baker's Tank trail.
The growth is even more spectacular when you consider that just two years ago, fields sometimes hovered around 20 or 30 runners " on a good day.
"Obviously last year it had grown," McBride said, "but no, I definitely didn't expect this in such a short period of time."
Much of the increase is due to an influx of Front Range participants, who often take off early from work to make the series' 5:45 p.m. starts.
Summit's series has grown so much, in fact, that it has spawned another of its kind down the road in the metro-area foothills.
McBride said one of the Front Range runners who couldn't get enough of the Nike series last year has put together a four-race series of his own this year, with races taking place in locales such as Golden, Evergreen and Littleton. They are on Wednesdays when the Summit series is not holding a race.
As usual, the Nike races will complement the 19th annual A Racer's Edge Summit Mountain Challenge seven-race mountain biking series, which also holds its races on Wednesdays (except for Sunday's series opener), so versatile local athletes will always have a hump-day competition to look forward to.
McBride said in addition to Nike's continuing support of the Summit series, new sponsors include Black Diamond, a marriage which came about through Roch Horton, the former Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center stalwart who now works for Black Diamond.
This year's series will feature a course selection almost identical to last summer's. The only notable variation will be at the New Nordic World race (No. 3 of the six), which will start at the Breck Ski Resort instead of down near town hall.
Devon O'Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.