Pace yourself for the New Ouray County Race Series
by Samantha Wright
Jan 26, 2012 | 1750 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OURAY COUNTY – Ouray County is perhaps best known among runners for its hard-core mountain terrain, epitomized by events like the Imogene Pass Run and the Hardrock 100 that attract the toughest endurance athletes out there.

Starting this spring, running enthusiasts of all abilities will be able to take part in a new six-part running event: the Ouray County Race Series.

The series strings together a couple of well-established footraces, along with some new ones, to offer a varied menu of running events from May through October.

Local marathoner and Ouray City Councilman John Ferguson is the coordinator of the series, as well as being the race director for two of its events.

The series springs into action on Memorial Day, with the second annual Compassion 5K in Ouray. Its gentle, mostly flat loop course starts and ends in Fellin Park near the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, meandering along the North Ouray Corridor trail system. The race benefits the coinciding “Compassion Weekend,” during which volunteers conduct community service projects throughout the county.

A new race will be introduced to the community on June 16: the first annual Trail Town 10-Miler near Ridgway. This “lollipop course” starts and finishes on Palomino Drive in Ridgway’s Trail Town, taking in a scenic lollipop-shaped loop along county roads in the Cow Creek and Owl Creek vicinity.

“It’s a common training run, kind of challenging with some elevation gain,” Ferguson said. “We figured, why not make a race out of it?”

July’s event is the Ourayce, a 10-K fun-run that has taken place in Ouray every Fourth of July since the early 1980s. It is a fundraiser for KURA, Ouray’s student-run radio station. The loop course starts and ends at the Ouray City Hall. Runners stream north along Highway 550 for about 2.5 miles then cross the Uncompahgre River at the Whispering Pines bridge and head back into town along the “River Road.” The course concludes with a butt-busting hustle up and over Oak Street, a tour through Box Canyon Park, and a final exhilarating downhill dash along Highway 550 back into town. Registration for the Ourayce is hosted on the website raceit.com.

On August 11, it’s the Mt. Sneffels Marathon/ Half Marathon (mtsneffelsmarathon.com), a popular annual fundraiser for the Mt. Sneffels Education Foundation, a non profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives and educational experiences of the youth in Ouray County. The 13.1 mile half-marathon course begins at Ouray’s Fellin Park, passes through downtown Ouray, then heads north along the Uncompahgre River valley to Ridgway on County Roads 17 and 23. The full marathon starts in Ridgway, goes to Ouray on the same course, and returns to Ridgway. Since becoming certified by USA Track and Field (USATF – the national organization governing track and field, running and race walking) last year, the Mt. Sneffels races have become increasingly well known on the running circuit. This year, the half-marathon course will be part of the USATF Colorado men’s half marathon championship – a grand prix series with events throughout the state, with $2,000 of prize money at stake.

The Ouray Mountain Trail Run (ouraytrailrun.org) is front and center on Sept. 29. The 14-mile endurance trail race circumnavigating Ouray is “probably the most challenging race,” and the only true trail run of the series, Ferguson said. The loop course includes portions of the Silvershield, Portland, and Ice Park Loop trails. The race has been around for several years, and was originally sponsored by La Sportiva. In recent years, it has dwindled to practically nothing, but Ferguson hopes its inclusion in the Ouray County Race Series this year will boost its visibility and popularity. Proceeds benefit local youth outdoor programs.

The race series wraps up on Oct. 27 in Ridgway with the second annual Rhythm Run 10K/5K. This race is hosted by Ridgway High School music department. Proceeds help send RHS musicians to special events, like a band trip to Europe last year. It starts and finishes at Hartwell Park in downtown Ridgway. The course follows Ridgway’s lovely River Walk Trail past the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park, and heads back into town along county roads. Visit www.ridgway.k12.co.us for more information.

Runners who participate in all six events, or who run in five events and volunteer in one, receive an embroidered fleece pullover at the end of the series, Ferguson said.

Want to sign up? Currently, the series does not have a unified website, but Ferguson, who is the race director for the Mt. Sneffels Marathon and Half-Marathon, plans to put a link for the series on that event’s website, www.mtsneffelsmarathon.com.

Contact Samantha Wright at swright@watchnewspapers.com

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