2015 Hunky Dory Half Marathon comes to Breckenridge singletrack on Aug. 1 | SummitDaily.com

2015 Hunky Dory Half Marathon comes to Breckenridge singletrack on Aug. 1

Runners barrel down a section of the Middle Flume trail in Breckenridge. The Hunky Dory Half Marathon crosses nearly a dozen of Breck's signature trails, including Upper, Middle and Lower Flume.
Special to the Daily | Special to the Daily

Hunky Dory Half Marathon

What: A half marathon held completely on singeltrack and double-track trails in Breckenridge, including portions of French Gulch and all three Flumes trails

Where: Vista Point Park starting line

When: Saturday, Aug. 1 at 8:30 a.m.

Cost: $65 pre-register; $70 on-site

Pre-registration closes at noon on July 31. On-site registration is cash only and begins at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 1. Vista Point Park is found at the corner of Wellington Road and Reiling Road in Breckenridge. Race fees include a T-shirt and lunch. Restrooms are available at the start line, with three aid stations on the course at miles 3, 7.5 and 10. For more information or to register, see http://www.townofbreckenridge.com.

Anyone who competes in the Summit Trail Running Series is spoiled rotten.

About twice per month, the mid-week series takes runners — primarily locals — on a ground-level tour of Breck’s best singletrack, the sort of trails they often run after work or maybe on a laid-back weekend morning. And it can be easy to take those trails for granted, particularly when you’re huffing and puffing over roots and rocks and switchbacks.

That’s where the Hunky Dory Half Marathon comes in. Unlike the trail series, the majority of competitors arrive from the Front Range and beyond state lines. Why? Simple enough: In 13.1 miles, the race covers four of the six trail-series routes. Visiting runners get a satisfying taste of the mid-week series and, with any luck, feel just as spoiled as locals.

“This is a great opportunity to get out and see those signature trails,” said Brian Schaefer, the town’s sports and special events director. “If people are coming in from out of town, they get the great views, the incredible singletrack — it’s just a good introduction to what Breck offers.”

13 trails, 13.1 miles

Now in its fifth year, the Hunky Dory course has changed very little, and again, it comes back to the sheer quality of the trails. Beginning at Vista Point Park — the gateway to a singletrack gold mine at French Gulch — runners head slightly uphill on French Gulch Road for about two miles to B&B Trail, found tucked behind the remains of old mines and dredge rock. The course rarely leaves the forest from there, weaving through the pine stands of Turks and Reiling Dredge before passing by the mine tails of Minnie Mine and Side Door.

“These are signature trails,” Schaefer says. “They aren’t too difficult, even though 8 of the overall 13.1 miles are above 10,000 feet. That’s really one of the big appeals of this race.”

French Gulch is relatively mellow, with brief uphills and only a handful of steep climbs. The rest is level and rolling, and, on the middle portion of Minnie Mine, the singletrack opens up to signature views of Breckenridge and the Tenmile Range to the east, with Baldy Mountain rising over rolling forests to the south.

“It’s just great to get out and take in the views, especially when you get up high above tree line,” says Greg Birk, an on-and-off local for more than three decades. “You get beautiful views of the Tenmile Range when you go over the dirt left behind by mining. It’s too bad mining changed the landscape, but it opens up and makes for great views.”

He’s been running on trails in Breckenridge since 1978, when he first moved to the area. He now spends the majority of the year working for an international boarding school in Switzerland, but, every summer, he returns to Colorado for a few months in the Rocky Mountains.

Although his ties to Breck run deep, he also has quite a bit in common with the visiting Hunky Dory runners. He rarely has time for the Summit series — he only made it out for one race this year — and enjoys the laid-back vibe of trail racing. This is no Boston Marathon: Organizers are expecting roughly 50-60 competitors this year, ranging in age from 12 to 60 years old.

“I just like that it’s local,” says Birk, who, luckily, won’t make the same journey as the majority of runners. “It’s right in town, so you don’t have to drive anywhere to find a great half marathon on great trail.”

After leaving the mine remains of French Gulch, the course connects with Western Sky Trail and the Slalom singletrack. This second half is a bit more developed than the first half, with trails that wind past homes and cross residential streets.

But it gives way to classic in-town singletrack: Lower, Middle and Upper Flume. The three trails weave in and out of neighborhoods along tight, narrow corridors before linking with Slalom a second time. From there, it’s a downhill cruise along Gold Run Road and Betty’s Trail back to Vista Point.

As an avid trail runner, Birk is grateful for mellow routes on well-known trails. He was running through Breck long before mountain bikes arrived, and he’s spent hours on the steep, craggy trails of Switzerland. If he’s learned one thing, it’s to never underestimate the trails in his backyard.

“Trail running is still trail running,” he says. “Every so often, there’s a bit of a risk factor. All you have to do is miss one step and go flying.”

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