Steamboat Springs ultra marathon pumps up prize money

Runners from the hare division of the 2017 Run, Rabbit Run 100-mile trail ultramarathon make their way up Steamboat Ski Area earlier this month. Race organizers announced earlier this week a new Rabbit Cup competition that would challenge 10 teams of three runners to compete for a prize purse of $100,000. That money is in addition to the $65,000 already doled out based on individual results.
Joel Reichenberger

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The tents and coolers and generators and tables and all the rest of the vast array of equipment it takes to put on a 100-mile trail running race are only just put away.

The Steamboat Springs-based Run, Rabbit Run 100-mile trail ultramarathon is already thinking big for 2018, however, and it established as much with a bold announcement Monday.

The race has already been notable for its fat prize purse, $65,000 total and $12,500 to both the men’s and women’s winners.

Now organizers are hoping they’ve found a way to inject another $100,000 into their race, proposing a first-of-its-kind challenge among three-racer teams.

They’re hoping to lure 10 teams of three ultra runners, each ponying up $10,000 to create that six-figured pot. The team with the lowest combined time between its fastest man and fastest woman will walk away with $50,000, meaning (assuming a championship individual performance and an even split of the big team prize) a runner could jog away with nearly $30,000.

“We’ve had a lot of interest already,” said Paul Sachs, a co-founder of the annual race. “Maybe we will pull this off.

“We’re just hoping to really drive this to bring even more people from around the world for the race,” Sachs explained. “We had 14 countries this year. We’d like to get more European runners to come and really make Run, Rabbit Run a race you absolutely want to do if you’re one of the top runners in the world.”

The potential for a $30,000 prize may very well do that.

They’re calling it the “Rabbit Cup,” and it will come with some perks. Teams entered will receive free lodging in Steamboat for the race.

The payout will go six teams deep, too, limiting some of the risk for athletes digging deep to find their share of $10,000. Second place will pay $20,000, third $15,000, fourth $10,000, fifth $5,000 and sixth $3,000.

Organizers are expecting some major trail running and sports equipment sponsors may pony up the entry fee for a team of their sponsored athletes, and they’re wondering how aggressive teams may get when it comes to trying to sign top contenders to their team of three.

The prizes don’t have to be split evenly. Perhaps a true individual title contender could negotiate a 50/25/25 split?

“We’re not sure how it’s going to work but part of the thought is it will bring 30 of the absolute best ultra runners in the world here to race because you’re not putting up $10,000 to not have the best people you can get out on that course,” Sachs said.

Run, Rabbit Run launched in 2006 as a 50-mile race but took a big step up in a number of ways in 2012 with the addition of a 100-mile event. Organizers sought to build a $100,000 prize purse, and that big check brought out many of the top runners in the country and some of the best in the world, unique for a first-year race.

That prize purse has settled in closer to $65,000 in the years since, and the race has been drawing about 90 runners to its “hare” division, the division eligible for the big prize money.

Sachs said he didn’t necessarily expect the change to draw more athletes, not right away, at least. Instead, he said the Cup serves the same purpose as the big prize purse did in 2012. It’s a way to keep Run, Rabbit Run on an increasingly crowded calendar of ultra-endurance events.

One thing for all runners or anyone with a bruised bank account to consider: there’s still plenty of time to train.

Run, Rabbit Run registration is expected to open with discounted registration — less than the $265 last year’s rates started at — in early November.

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

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.