Runners to participate in 41st Hayden Cog Run on Saturday |

Runners to participate in 41st Hayden Cog Run on Saturday

Matt Milde runs down the Cog road near Hayden during the Hayden Cog Run. The grueling early-season running race is one of the first events of the running and biking season.
Joel Reichenberger

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Runners will be kicking their heels up at one of the oldest races in Colorado this Saturday in Hayden.

The Hayden Cog, started in 1979, enters its 41st consecutive year as a race that opens the running season in Routt County.

Kim Richardson, a physical education teacher, approached Mark Fischer, former head of the Hayden Chamber of Commerce, about ideas to get his kids running and enjoying the outdoors.

The two runners thought of their favorite routes and how to make the event family-oriented. They came up with the idea of having a 3-mile fun run for the kids and a longer, 8.4-mile run for avid runners in the area to attract them to Hayden.

The out-and-back route encompasses a flat mile before crossing the Yampa River for a 3.2-mile ascent up the Hayden Cog, a part of the bluffs north of Hayden, then back to town. The kids fun run is now a mile, and there’s a 5-kilometer option for runners who don’t want to do the full race.

“At the height of the running boom in the ’80s, we had 200 and something runners,” Fischer said. “And we are two weeks older than the Boulder Boulder 10K.”

Fischer moved to Steamboat Springs to start his family, but the town of Hayden has kept the run going longer than he could’ve imagined.

“Any time that we can be an attraction of any sorts, it means a lot to the town because we run on property taxes and water revenue,” Hayden recreation director Josh Jones said.

If you go

What: 41st Hayden Cog Run
10 a.m. Saturday, May 4
Where: Hayden Town Park, 229 South Third St., Hayden
Cost: $40 for 8.4 mile, $25 for 5K, Kids fun run is donation-based
Register: or on-site

Jones added that it’s an attraction that draws people to Hayden’s local businesses after the run. This year, people running the 5K will get a glimpse of Hayden’s multigenerational playground, which opens June 1.

Fischer has fond memories of the race, including an unexpected run-in with high-caliber mountain climbers at a local restaurant.

It was a day Fischer reached inexplicable levels of dehydration, feeling disoriented and tired. He stumbled into the restaurant to drink water and started talking to the people around him.

They told him of their experience climbing Mount Everest and the measures they had to take when they were dehydrated, and how they had lost friends. The story was fresh off their breaths having just come back to the valley. It was later published as a book, “Into thin Air,” by John Krakauer.

“I sit down with them, and I’m all woe is me,” Fischer said. “It just put everything in perspective, as far as athletic overdoing it and suffering the consequences of mild dehydration versus multiple deaths.”

Fischer laughs when he thinks about its grassroots, too, because before being adopted by the Steamboat Springs Running Series, it was a local community-organized run. He didn’t know the rules that came with that, like getting permission from Colorado State Patrol to cross the highway during a day on an active road.

“We had the town cop, and they controlled the traffic until we found we needed to have permits,” Fischer said. “And then they’re saying, ‘No, you can’t run a running race,’ and I refused to take, ‘No,’ for an answer.

“After a few years of that they gave up, but we made sure State Patrol would be there to help along with the Hayden town marshal.”

The Hayden Cog Run serves the somewhat crazy runners willing to kick off their season on a grueling note. Fischer cautions first-timers who might think the ascent is the hardest part.

“When you train, you take your time going downhill, but in a race, you’re trying to make a time,” Fischer said. “It punishes you and beats you up, and I’ll always remember that.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @lvann_sports.

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