Local runners rising to Run, Rabbit Run challenge

Runners from the Hare division start the Run, Rabbit Run 100-mile ultramarathon in 2014. Local participation in the event has grown along with the race.
Joel Reichenberger/file

Local Run, Rabbit Run competitors 100-mile runners: Darren Thomas, Devon Olson, Sabrina Stanley, Heidi Sauerland, Matt Milde, Jenny Fox, Ryan VanNess, Michael Kelly, Michael Hlavacek, Molly Cuffe, Michael Ehrlich, Natalie Larson, Filip Boelen, Ryan Larson, Andy Cheesebro, Kathleen Lynch, Sean Nalette, Mark Buchanan

50-mile runners: Candy Granger, Dillon Gotshall, Allen Belshaw, Charlie Macarthur, Cara Marrs, Jeff Olson, Sharon Pace Ward, Ken Spruell, Caroline Caldwell, Bernie Bachel, Mark Rueff, Diana Hornung, Adam Sando, John Williams, Edward Cleary, Andrew Miller, Elizabeth Boersma, Lindsay Richter, Josh Feldman, Don Platt, Melissa U-Rogers, Sara Snow, Pam Wooster, Liz Lata, Michelle Barnes

List provided by Steamboat Springs Running Series

There certainly was a running community in Steamboat Springs in 2006, the year before the first Run, Rabbit Run trail marathon. In its 10 full years of competition, the event has helped usher some major changes into that community, however, and when hundreds of runners head into the mountains beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, dozens of Steamboat Springs locals will be in the field, something that simply didn’t seem possible a decade ago.

“It’s been incredible growth,” said Paul Sachs, longtime Steamboat local and co-founder of Run, Rabbit Run. “Part of it is just we have the ultra runs. People get attracted, because they know there’s that kind of running here. It’s been extraordinary. Some people who were running other races see these races and give them a try”

This year, 43 local racers will run in either the 100- or the 50-mile version of the Run, Rabbit Run.

The event started as a 50-mile race in 2007. A 100-mile version was added in 2012, and since it’s founding, its stood as perhaps the ultimate summer test of endurance in the Steamboat region.

Steamboaters aren’t the type to back down from a challenge, and the race’s mere presence has inspired many of its local participants to give the distances a try.

“Barely any locals used to do those races,” Cara Marrs said.

Director of the local running series, Marrs had plenty of miles under her belt before she first attempted the 50-mile race. She then tried to tackle the 100-mile version three times before she finished it last year.

She’s now finished five 100-mile races.

“There are just a lot of people trying the 50 who haven’t done a lot of stuff,” she said. “People are seeing their friends finish, they’re getting excited and they’re less intimidated by the whole thing.”

Local runners seeing the race and being inspired by others finishing it has actually turned into a bit of a problem for the race, itself.

It’s become a regular trend for someone to volunteer for a year or two to help put the big event on, have that nearness to the runners plant a seed then, then, the following year, decide to tackle the run themselves.

“Every year, they go volunteer and decide, ‘Heck, I’m doing this next year,’” race co-founder Fred Abramowitz said. “It’s a great thing, because it’s created a world-class ultra community here in Steamboat, but it sure hurts our ability to get volunteers for the race when they’re all out running it.”

It’s not just ambitious locals who’ve helped swell the ranks of Steamboat Springs ultra runners, either.

The race has proven to have some gravity of its own and has pulled a handful of elite ultra-marathon runners into Steamboat’s orbit on a more permanent basis.

“The elevation is perfect. You’re at elevation, so you get that advantage, but it’s low enough where you can do speed work,” local runner Sabrina Stanely said. “You can’t get the muscle memory if you were up any higher than this.”

A third-place finish at the Western States 100-mile race has helped Stanley enter this event as one of the favorites, certainly among local runners.

She’s part of a tight group of three elite ultra runners who call Steamboat home.

Veteran runners Avery Collins and Devon Olson moved to Steamboat in 2014, specifically to prepare for Run, Rabbit Run. They were drawn initially by the 100-mile race’s large purse, $12,500 this year and still the biggest of any ultra marathon race.

They stayed after the race came and went, however, and three years later, are still in town.

Stanley was living in Breckenridge when she met Collins last year. They pair started dating, and now, both live in Steamboat.

Both Olson and Stanley will race this year, with Collins offering support.

“It’s like a hidden Boulder,” Stanley said. “Steamboat’s so far out of the way, you don’t get all the people. It has a lot more of a local, small-town feel than Boulder, with all the same advantages, as far as training.”

The 100-mile race begins at 8 a.m. Friday at the base of Steamboat Ski Area with the start for the Tortoise division runners. The Hare division, chasing that big pile of prize money, will start at noon.

The top Hare finisher should cross the finish line after 5 a.m. The course record, set in 2013 by Jason Schlarb, is 17 hours, 15 minutes and 20 seconds, which would put him in at 5:15 a.m.

The women’s record is 20:16:54, set in 2013 by Michele Yates, who’s in the field again this year.

The 50-mile race starts at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Racers from both events will be finishing back at the base of Steamboat Ski Area all day Saturday until an 8 p.m. cutoff.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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