Runner injured on Emerald Mountain inspired after strangers come to her aid |

Runner injured on Emerald Mountain inspired after strangers come to her aid

Lauren Larson was trail running on the Emerald Mountain Trail System when she fell and broke her leg. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that asks people to social distance, a few strangers helped her get back to the trailhead.
Lauren Larson/Courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Lauren Larson broke her leg while running on Emerald Mountain, people came to her rescue, supporting her weight and helping her down to the trailhead. Their aid was undoubtedly a selfless act of kindness, but it is even more meaningful amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, in which interactions with strangers are avoided. 

Larson’s rescuers could have cited health concerns and either not helped her or done a lot less by simply waiting with her from a distance for Search and Rescue. Instead, they took matters into their own hands.

On June 7, Larson embarked on a trial run. She ascended Morning Gloria, ran along Quarry Mountain, hauled back uphill along Blair Witch. About 7 1/2 miles into her 10-mile run, she neared the intersection of Prayer Flag Road and encountered a cyclist. She stepped to the side and let them pass. They warned her one more cyclist was on the way. She proceeded to run until the second biker was closer.

“I maybe took two or three strides. I feel like I tripped with my right foot. I extended my left foot out to sort of catch myself and hit it just right with the impact,” Larson recalled. “It caused my femur (thigh) bone to crash down into my tibia, which basically exploded the top of my tibia (shin) and broke my fibula.”

The oncoming biker saw the whole thing, and as Larson crumpled into the bushes on the side of the trail, the cyclist dismounted and rushed to her aid. 

The woman called to her partner, the biker who had already passed Larson, for help. After Larson’s initial shock wore off, they tried to help her stand, along with two other mountain bikers who stopped to help. 

Until she fractured her wrist two years ago, Larson, 36, had never broken a bone. She heard two pops upon falling, but since she had little to compare to, she didn’t immediately think she had broken anything.

Call Search and Rescue

If you are injured or stranded on a trail, call Routt County Search and Rescue by dialing 911.

When she tried to stand, it became apparent that her injury was extensive, since she could hardly bend or straighten her left leg, let alone put any weight on it. Larson would need help getting all the way back down the mountain.

Two of her rescuers lifted her by her arms, while the others scooted the woman’s bike underneath Larson. With one person biking ahead of the group, clearing the way, the small team helped Larson glide down the mountain back to the trailhead, where she met her husband, who had been called. 

After going to the emergency room, Larson learned the extent of her injuries and that she would need surgery on the coming Wednesday. Surgery to install a plate and a few screws went smoothly. Now, Larson is on crutches and recovering, hoping to be fully healed by ski season. 

Inspired to learn

One of the rescuers was trained in wilderness rescue and wrapped Larson’s leg in a bandage and offered her Advil. She also spoke calmly to Larson, asking her name and how long she had lived in Steamboat Springs. 

“I was really impressed,” said Larson. “She just had a very calming way of talking to me, asking me those questions. It almost helped me calm me. I felt like she was taking control of the situation, and she was taking leadership. It helped me feel more comfortable that she was with someone that was looking out for me.”

Larson has since been inspired to look into wilderness rescue training, especially since she and her husband already spend a lot of time on the trail, biking or running decent distances from trailheads. 

“It would only be a matter of time before we came across someone who needed some help,” Larson. “To me, it just makes complete sense. It makes me feel like I’m giving back to this community, should they need me, like this person did for me.”

The good deeds stretched beyond the bikers that helped Larson descend Emerald. When she called her husband, who was working from home and watching their two young children, he had to leave them somewhere. Their neighbor was kind enough to watch the children while Larson and her husband went to the hospital. 

The same day Larson went in for surgery, her kids were able to return to their preschool, where they spend three days a week, lightening the load for Larson while she recovers. 

Her only regret

Larson is saddened and frustrated by her injury, but when she thinks about what she would have done differently, it wasn’t her pace or where she stepped. Larson said she wishes she wore or brought a face mask.

“I really felt bad, honestly, for their sake,” she said of her rescuers. “They were stopping to help me and putting themselves at risk. They didn’t have any face coverings, either, but we were in a lot closer contact than we had intended to be.”

It came as a relief that Larson’s presurgery COVID-19 test was negative, so she knew she personally hadn’t exposed them to the virus, but her injury still brought three separate groups of people together.

She admitted that only sometimes does she bring a face covering on her runs or mountain bikes. The risk is relatively low outside, and she doesn’t gather near other people. On the day of her injury, she hadn’t worn one though or even kept one in her pack. Her rescuers had opted not to wear them, either. 

“During this time of COVID-19,” said Larson, “if you’re not going to wear face protection on the trial while running or mountain biking, carry something with you, should you need a rescue out of respect to the people who are rescuing you.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.

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