Local runners take on trails and melting snow at resorts
Jul 18, 2019 02:52PM
● By Justin Adams
Runners hit the trails at Alta on July 10 for the Wasatch Trail Run Series. (Joshua Wood, City Journals)
By Joshua Wood | [email protected]
The Wasatch Trail Run Series continued its popular 2019 return as its events moved to local ski resorts this summer. Runners have enthusiastically welcomed back the series after organizers took 2018 off, and not even the lingering snow could dampen the turnout to recent races.
Over 200 people ran the July race at Alta. As runners hiked to the starting line just uphill from the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge to register, warm up and listen to instructions from organizers — they had to step over streams of runoff trickling down the path.
“Alta is one of our favorite courses, and this turnout was huge,” said Wasatch Trail Run Series Founder Mitt Stewart. “The course is beautiful up to Cecret Lake. There are a couple of snow patches on the way up. Even without the snow, I would say it’s our most challenging course.”
The course was even more challenging because the race had to start farther down the slope due to the snow, adding an additional mile to the race. Each event in the series has a long course and a short course. Long courses are typically around eight miles, while each short course is five miles or less.
“It’s really great,” Stewart said. “This year, our volunteers have really stepped up.”
To help runners along the way, each event is staffed with course volunteers and an EMT. People who volunteer at a race get to run a race for free. There is also the Ten Race Club in which anyone who runs nine races and volunteers for another gets a Wasatch Trail Run logo jacket.
“Attendance is higher than it was the previous year,” Stewart said. “We took last year off, and we were really thankful and happy to have a really loyal following.”
The enthusiastic response from runners was evident at the Alta race as the crowd at the starting line steadily grew. Runners marched uphill against the trickle of snow melting in the intense July sun.
“This year I’ve done seven races,” said Heather Ashby as she waited at the starting line. “I just got into trail running like three years ago and I did the series. Then last year we didn’t do it, so we were super excited that they did it again this year.”
The races are often sponsored by companies offering demos to runners. The July 10 race at Alta featured trail running shoes from Merrill. “We bring out demo shoes that people can try out because when you’re at an REI, you really don’t know how they’re going to feel out on the trail,” said Ellis McBrayer of Merrill. “So we bring out the demo shoes so people can try them out, get them dirty, see how they feel and make sure that they like them. We can find out what they like, what they don’t like, and get some feedback.”
Runners have gravitated to the events for a number of reasons. Some do it to keep fit, while others use the events as a way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
“Simply looking to see what can keep me accountable on my fitness, keep me busy trail running out here,” said runner Mariano Mendez, who didn’t seem to mind the snow on the course. “I’ve run on pretty soggy stuff before. It’s fun. It kind of gets your mind off running in general and allows you to enjoy the outdoors more.”
In addition to offering local runners with an opportunity to hit the trails, the series also benefits the trails themselves. With funds raised from races, Wasatch Trail Run Series donates a portion to nonprofits associated with local trails.
“We donated $1,500 to the Dimple Dell Preservation Community,” Stewart said. “We’ll be donating more funds to different trails like the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation.”
The 2019 series ends with events at Solitude on July 31, Snowbird on Aug. 7, and back to Alta for the final race on Aug. 14. Details can be found at www.runontrails.com.
After the runners had hit the trail for the July 10 race at Alta, Stewart basked in the summer sun and expressed his excitement for the events. “People have just been great,” he said. “The examples of generosity are really cool. People have been spending all night up here helping out.”
The reason Stewart puts in the work for the trail series is simple. “It’s a labor of love.”