My dad can run 100 miles. Can yours?
Steamboat Springs — It wasn’t that he didn’t want to run it, that he was afraid or intimidated.
Fred Abramowitz has spent the last four years, with co-director Paul Sachs, building the Steamboat Springs’ Run, Rabbit Run 100-mile trail ultra-marathon into one of the premier events in the sport, praised for both its industry-leading prize purse and its with-a-runner’s-eye attention to details.
Still, despite having finished dozens of 100-mile races, he simply didn’t think of actually competing in his own race.
Age has a way of changing things like that, and when the race starts at 8 a.m. Friday morning, the 63-year-old Abramowitz will be “running it” in an entirely different way.
He sees it as a race against time.
“I’m getting old, and if I’m ever going to finish it, it’s never going to be easier than it is now,” he said Thursday, laughing.
Finishing matters to him for plenty of reasons and high on the list is his 7-year-old son Misha, adopted five years ago from a Russian orphanage by Abramowitz and his wife, Amy.
That’s the inspiration behind this year’s race T-shirts, labeled with the slogan, “My dad can run 100 miles. Can yours?”
An elite field
In Steamboat, the 100-mile field of runners is divided into two groups, tortoises and hares. The hares are where the big money and big names are, and this year, that group will again include many of the nation’s most accomplished ultra runners.
Nikki Kimball, reigning champ of the women’s division, is back, and Spanish runner Emma Rocca, one of Europe’s top runners, is in the race. The 2013 champ and course recorder holder, Michele Yates, will also run.
On the men’s side, Jason Schlarb may be the favorite, returning after winning and setting the course record in 2013. Elsewhere, Josh Arthur is back after placing second in the race a year ago, and Timothy Olson, a two-time Western State champ, is back for his third shot.
A $12,000 winner’s check and $50,000 total is up for grabs.
They’ll start at noon Friday, but the tortoises, Abramowitz included, will get a four-hour head start, leaving the Gondola Square starting line at 8 a.m.
A 50-mile version will start at 6 a.m. Saturday.
“It’s incredible, bigger than it’s ever been,” Sachs said. “We filled both races this year, so 500-plus runners, which is an awful lot.”
The 100-mile runners will head up — quite literally at times, bushwacking up the Lower Valley View ski trail — Mount Werner, starting a furious up-and-down course that includes 25 miles on Emerald Mountain and trips up and down Fish Creek Falls trail and Buffalo Pass before finally finishing back at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
It’s 20,191 feet of elevation gain, and it annually causes even many of the fit and prepared to abandon mid-race.
Abramowitz isn’t so much worried about the terrain. He’s raced plenty of other 100 milers and has run every segment of Steamboat’s course.
The real worry, he said, is the time.
There’s a 36-hour limit for runners, even if they’re race directors, which means he needs to be back by 8 p.m. Saturday night.
“As you age, you slow, and it becomes progressively harder to finish within the time limit,” Abramowitz said. “I realized my days to do these things are coming to a close.”
He’s the second-oldest runner in the field — he offers major applause to the oldest, 69-year-old William Watson — and he’s well aware there’s no shame in not making it, “so long you give it the best you can,” he said.
But he really wants to finish, and the reason comes back to that T-shirt.
“I’m 63 years old, and I have a 7-year-old son,” he said. “I realize soon his friends, and he, will realize that his dad is old enough to be his grandfather. I want him to be able to say, ‘Well, my daddy can run 100 miles. Can yours?’”
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