50-mile challenge awaits eager runners in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

50-mile challenge awaits eager runners in Steamboat

Saturday’s Run, Rabbit Run race to attract some of nation’s premier talent

When it comes to running races on the roads and trails around Steamboat Springs, Harald Niedl has plenty of experience setting and accomplishing goals.

He called his shot early last summer, predicting he’d win the men’s overall points championship of the Steamboat Springs Running Series after just a few races. He rarely was the fastest runner, but with dogged determination, he accomplished his goal.

He now has a new goal: Saturday’s Run, Rabbit Run 50-mile trail ultra marathon.

Some things about the race don’t scare Niedl.

“Oh, I know I’ll finish,” he said confidently Thursday morning.

Other things do.

“That’s 80 kilometers, dude,” he said, his breath shortening a little. “I did a 30-mile run one time, but I’ve never had a race more than 18 (miles). I’ve never even done a marathon.”

The fourth-annual Run, Rab­bit Run ultramarathon will be a new experience for a lot people, organizers included.

The race hit its cap of 150 in the middle of July, the most interest it has received in its short life.

It partnered with the Montrail Ultra Cup series earlier this summer and will award two coveted spots to the Western States 100, the premier trail running event in the nation.

That has led to a deep, talented field that will include some of the biggest names in the swiftly growing sport.

“It’s just going to be extraordinary,” event director Fred Abra­mowitz said. “We’ve been turning runners away. We’ve probably turned down 40 or 50 already and people are still asking.”

Leading the way will be Geoff Roes, a native New Yorker who now splits his time between Alaska and Boulder. At 34, he’s at the pinnacle of his sport, having recently won the Western States race and set a new course record at 15 hours, 7 minutes and 4 seconds. That’s 100 miles’ worth of 9-minute miles.

Joelle Vaught, meanwhile, will be one of the favorites in the women’s field. She’s already won four events this season.

Two-time men’s champ Ryan Burch also will compete Saturday.

This year’s race will be in memory of Jenna Gruben Morrill, who won her third consecutive women’s title last September before she was killed in a car accident early this year.

“That’s going to make it an emotionally wrenching day for a lot of us,” said Abramowitz, who credited Gruben’s enthusiasm for the race’s continued success. “In a lot of ways, it will be a celebration of her.”

It starts at 6 a.m. Saturday morning at the base of Steam­­boat Ski Area, cuts up and over to the summit of Rabbit Ears Peak, and then returns.

The leaders should be back to the base-area finish line starting at about 1 p.m.

Niedl said although he’s nervous, he’s also ready.

“The first 6.5 miles just goes straight up, so I’m planning on hiking that,” he said.

He spent the summer building up to Saturday’s race, going for long runs of 20 miles or more Saturdays and longer runs than normal four other days every week.

Still, he didn’t entirely know what to expect.

“But I’m going to finish no matter what,” he said.

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