Trail blazers: Popularity of trail running soaring in Grand Valley

One of the draws of trail running is the beauty you get to see as you run. The Thigunawat 10K is one of several trail running races in the valley.

Dustin Perkins started the Thigunawat 10K last year to offer something different for runners.

To his surprise, there were 136 participants in the event.

This year, Perkins is expecting at least that many for Saturday’s 9:30 a.m. race at Powderhorn Resort. Registration is $30 in advance and $35 on race day. Registration closes at 9 a.m.

“One thing I like about it, it’s less impact on the joints if you run a long time,” Perkins said. “In the Grand Valley, there is an unlimited number of trails you can run on. Your times won’t be as fast, but you can enjoy the scenery more. It helps with coordination more. You need to pay attention and jump over things. It helps coordination a little bit.

“What’s around the next corner is an exciting part of it. In many cases it’s rare to see 50 feet in front of you.”

There have been trail running events on the Western Slope for nearly 30 years, but their popularity is just beginning to take off.

“When it initially started, you would have to explain to somebody you are running on a trail in the mountains or in the desert,” longtime runner Robb Reece said. “In the last five years, it’s exploded.

“The more people I talk too, more have just about giving up road running. Trail running is a lot more fun and more scenic. A lot more people do it to get off the pavement. You don’t get injured as much.”

Events such as Turkey Flats Loop run, Crag Crest trail run and Mary’s Loop run have been around for years.

The Imogene Pass Run, a 17.1-mile run from Ouray to Telluride over Imogene Pass, is known as the Holy Grail of trail running on the Western Slope, Perkins said.

In addition to the Thigunawat 10K, the Grand Mesa 100 started this year.

Most trail running events are the usual five- or 10-kilometer races, but Reece says there are more and more runners wanting to go longer.

“There are a lot of people looking for longer, harder stuff,” he said. The 50-milers and 100-milers have gotten ridiculous.

“It’s still growing. The crazy hard events are out there.”

Although the terrain on trail running courses isn’t as hard as pavement, there are potential injuries out there.

“The biggest factor is balance, being able to negotiate obstacles,” Sports Medicine physician Richard Price said. “Trail runners are jumping over things, logs, rocks, and they go through streams. Last year at this race, it was a pretty new trail with a couple stream crossings, so it was a challenging trail.”

Price, who has worked with the USA running and cycling team, is the doctor on call for the event.

“With street running, a lot of it is overuse,” he said. “Trail running is more injury related, ankle sprains and broken things. It’s more trauma related.”

This year, the Thigunawat is one of the races in the Trail Runner Trophy Series ( Runners can accumulate points for prizes in the series.

The only requirement is the race being on a trail and being sanctioned with Trail Runner Magazine. There are close to 100 races in the series.


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