‘So important to keep these traditions:’ Spring Creek Memorial Trail Run hasn’t changed much in 30 years
Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the Spring Creek Memorial Run, one of the oldest races in the Steamboat Springs Running Series. Ken Brenner created the race in memory of his sister, Patty Brenner Hagberg, who was killed when she was hit by a truck on the lower portion of the Spring Creek road in 1991. The purpose of the race is to remind trail users the importance of sharing multiuse trails.
Three decades later, the race is still serving that purpose, opening the morning with a speech about sharing trails and high-traffic areas. The area is never closed for the race either, but signs warn bikers that the popular route will be packed with racers.
Brenner hosted the race himself for some time, but about 14 years ago, Cara Marrs and the Steamboat Running Series took over.
“I’m really happy that Cara has stepped up and kept this vision and event viable,” Brenner said.
The wildest and most wonderful thing about Spring Creek Run, is it hasn’t changed much over the past 30 years.
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Brenner said the first year, they just ran the length of the primitive county road, about 3 miles round trip. The trail did not exist yet. After a couple years of back-and-forth and hammering out logistics, in May 1994, Steamboat Springs City Council approved the plan and $10,000 in funding to build Spring Creek Trail, according to newspaper clippings provided by the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The trail was one of the first, if not the first, recreational trail to serve as a link between town and Routt National Forest.
The trail cuts through Spring Creek Mountain Preserve, an 800-acre swath of land granted to the city by the U.S. Congress in 1910 at $1.25 an acre, according to newspaper clippings provided by the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
With the building of the Spring Creek Trail, the current course took shape.
Runners embark up the “road” from the pavilion and ponds, then branch off the current trail to what is known as the old ditch trail, onto private property. Each year, a crew heads to the private land to roughly clear the unimproved trail to make wayfinding easier for the runners out front.
Competitors run uphill on the private property along a path that was an old stage route that travelers used to get into Steamboat before Rabbit Ears Pass was created, according to Marrs.
“It’s special they get to go on the old ditch trail and through that section,” Marrs said. “Because there are some pretty cool views of town that you would never see.”
Runners soon pop out onto Routt County Road 38, or Buffalo Pass Road, and head uphill to Dry Lake Campground, where they start going downhill on Spring Creek Trail.
A few minor adjustments aside, the course has been the same for years.
“As things change in Steamboat, it’s so important to keep these traditions,” Marrs said.
Now, there is a downhill trail that runs alongside the pedestrian trail, separating bikers from walkers to keep the busy area a little safer.
Funds raised through the first few years of the race were used to purchase the benches that trail users see at the bottom of Spring Creek trail.
Marrs was introduced to the run when she first moved to Steamboat in 1997. The Spring Creek Memorial Run was one of the first races she competed in. She raced for about a decade before taking over as race director.
Through her years putting the run together as well as directing the series, Marrs has noticed that the Spring Creek race is the most popular. It’s also the only one that directly benefits the running series.
“All of our races benefit other nonprofits in town. We’re totally charity led,” Marrs said. “This race is the one race that is designated every year to be a benefit for the running series. It’s really important that we have good turnout. It’s such a cool race. It has history.”
A little more running series history
The Spring Creek Memorial Run is one of a few races Brennan created in the ’90s and early 2000s. He also created an uphill climb from Fish Creek Falls to Long Lake, the Mt. Werner Classic and the Hot Springs Shortcut.
The shortcut was wild. It had a start in downtown, near Old Town Hot Springs and a finish line at Strawberry Park Hot Springs but no official route. People made their own way, trying to be the first one there.
“Any route was fair,” Brennan said. “There’s about a dozen different routes. It was a really interesting start to watch because people came out of there about 180 degrees, going on different trails or routes through town.”
The race was also special because there was a mountain bike division. Half an hour after the runners took off, the cyclists would take off after them, arriving around the same time.
The Mt. Werner Classic began before there were any trails on Steamboat Resort. It began at the Tugboat, stretched up to Thunderhead, then to Temple’s Crotch, the corner in Rainbow where Jim Temple supposedly fell and ripped the crotch completely out of his ski pants while skiing with a few other local boys, Brenner said.
The race then went up Buddy’s Run then over and down High Noon and back to the top of the gondola. The Mt. Werner Classic attracted top-notch runners from around the country, according to Brennan. In the 2010s, the race was extended from 12 miles to a 50K, or 31-mile course.
The Hot Springs Shortcut was cut from the running series program after 2007. The Mt. Werner Classic lived on a few more years. The Spring Creek Run is the only one that is still around.
“This race was a little more important,” he said.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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