Run the Rockies 10K and half marathon kicks off the running season this weekend in Frisco | SummitDaily.com

Run the Rockies 10K and half marathon kicks off the running season this weekend in Frisco

For frequent commuters between Copper and Frisco, the windy, mellow stretch of Interstate 70 known as Officers Gulch is a gorgeous introduction to the joys — and towering majesty — of an alpine byway.

Yet, for runners, it's one hell of a personal challenge.

This weekend, hundreds of runners gather at Copper Mountain for the 39th edition of the Run the Rockies 10K and half marathon. The one-two punch is touted as a near-perfect introduction to the running season, and for good reason. Both routes follow the gentle downhill grade of the Ten Mile recreation path, a 6.5-mile stretch that runs parallel to I-70 and, for beginners and newcomers alike, is the preferred pathway for just about anyone who wants a taste of the road less traveled.

But, that's not to say it's an easy trek. The average elevation hovers right around 9,400 feet — enough to put the strain on lowlanders, even with a consistent downhill. When you add hundreds of fellow runners, Frisco's bustling summer crowds and the inevitable butterflies that come with the first race of the season, well, it's not exactly a walk in the park. More like a run through the Rockies, pun intended.

“(The races) are really considered the kickoff to the Summit County summer running season.”Vanessa AgeeTown of Frisco

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On your marks, get set…

Registration for both races is open until the start of the half marathon at 8 a.m. There's no race parking at Copper, so all runners will take buses from Frisco to the starting line at the Copper Mountain Conoco. Free buses run regularly from Frisco Town Hall between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Organizers suggest all half-marathon competitors load the bus by 7:30 a.m. at the latest in time for the first wave.

But what of prizes? Not only are the routes user-friendly so is the start list, with seven separate age categories for males and females. That means 14 opportunities to earn a podium spot, with prizes going to overall winners in each category. Like many road races, it may be straightforward by it's not a complete free-for-all: Cut-off time is noon for the 10K and half marathon. If you haven't crossed the finish line by then, you won't receive an official time, even if you still have a race bib with the imbedded timing chip.

Everyone who registers receives a Run the Rockies mason jar and one free beer at local watering hole Backcountry Brewery, along with a slew of other handouts and goodies available at the finish line at Frisco Historical Park on Main Street. The post-race party gets started at the historical park around 11 a.m.

"(The races) are really considered the kickoff to the Summit County summer running season," said Vanessa Agee with the Town of Frisco. "Last year, they were not able to run all the way from Copper because the rec path was flooded at Wheeler Flats, but it looks like that may not be an issue this year."

With the exception of occasional flooding, the route has changed little over the past four decades. Again, it comes back to the early-season appeal: Even if you haven't tackled a half marathon this summer, the course is a forgiving reintroduction to the road.

Both routes begin at Copper and wind through Officers Gulch before reaching the heart of Main Street Frisco.

When 10Kers split off to enjoy their post-race beer, distance runners continue along the rec path through town, past Dillon Reservoir and out to Summit High School. A race marshal is stationed at the turnaround, then it's back the way you came to Frisco. It's the only uphill portion of the race, but it comes at mile nine and lasts 1.5 surprisingly long miles. Be wary of the second-half grind and save your legs for the final push.

As if that weren't enough, Run the Rockies returns on Aug. 15 with a trail 10K and half marathon at Frisco Peninsula. Registration is already open online.

Run the Rockies road races

What: The 39th annual 10K and half marathon from Copper Mountain to Frisco along the Ten Mile recreation path through Officers Gulch

Where: Copper Mountain start

When: Saturday, June 6 at 8 a.m. (half start) and 8:30 a.m. (10K start)

Cost: $60 (half) and $45 (10K) by June 4, $65 (half) and $45 (10K) day-of; $10 less for youth

Registration for both races is available at Frisco Town Hall from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on June 5 and from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. on June 6. Bib pick-up for all racers takes place at the same time in the same location. For more information or to register online, see http://www.runtherockies.com.