Any event that lasts 30 years is doing something well
The Run the Rockies road race is sort of like a ski bum: It has come close to leaving town many times, but never quite could.There was the time in the early 1980s when the marathon route from Blue River (it basically started at the foot of Quandary Peak) to Dillon was putting runners in too much danger along the roadside of Highway 9.Organizers changed the course, and it lived on.Then there were the lean-numbered years in the late-’90s when the race’s 17-mile route around Dillon Reservoir had “run its course,” you might say. “The race was basically on its way into extinction at that time,” says current organizer Mike Heaston.
Again, like a couch surfer from out of town, it found a way to stay.Ski bums work every-which-job, and live every-which-where, just so they can ski.Run the Rockies is sort of the same way. It has been held in every corner of the county, at every length possible – marathon, half-marathon, 17-miler, 5K, 10K. About eight years ago, organizers began staging it on the recpath from Copper to Frisco. A downhill route.Surprise, surprise – it stuck.The race has become something of a summer symbol since then. Shortly before the solstice arrives, when Colorado’s runners are still in their early season training modes, they meander up to 9,600 feet and run faster than they are able to. Literally, almost to a person, the times the runners put up are faster than any they’ll run all year.
You want to talk about why the event has made it to a 30th anniversary – which it celebrates with Saturday’s race – then you’d better be ready to talk about elevation change – roughly 500 feet in this case.This is not to discount the course’s beauty. Certainly, running along a rushing creek in a sheer-walled rock canyon is, as they say on the beach in Rio, easy on the eyes. And yes, a well-organized event brings the people back the following year.But let’s be honest. If you’re going to take part in a race, and your ego is alive, why not run one downhill?”They like that, you bet,” said Fred King, a former Breckenridge resident of 30 years who now lives in Wyoming and works in Broomfield. King ran in the first Run the Rockies back in 1976, and has been designing and measuring the Rockies courses for decades since.Run the Rockies regulars like Summit local Holly Busnardo are not afraid to admit they’ve caved to the race’s wonderful little lure. “It’s definitely a factor,” said Busnardo, who will be running the race on Saturday for the fifth time. “I think it’s a nice way to start a season.”
Over the past four years, Heaston said the race has averaged fields of between 450 and 500 runners. While not nearly as big as some road races, that’s pretty darn good for a 10K and half-marathon at high altitude, this early in the season.Heaston, who’s been putting on events for 23 years, understands exactly what kind of marketing power those 500 feet of elevation change represent. “We’ve really had no complaints on the course,” he said simply, knowing well how rare that is.In reality, the downhill factor is the latest in a long line of sustaining elements. Events come and go like clouds these days. Thirty years is something.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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