Valley club hits the ground running |

Valley club hits the ground running

John StroudPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

“You go ahead … I’ll stay back today,” one of the participants in the weekly Glenwood Springs group run offers, as a half dozen runners form a single-file line up the Wulfsohn Trail above Glenwood Meadows.Along the way, conversation (mixed with some huffs and puffs) bounces between work and family happenings, newly discovered trails and a little training advice.The 45-minute to hour-long run seems to go by quickly, and soon everyone’s ready for a slice of pizza, a cold beverage and more friendly conversation at Russo’s Pizza.”I like to mix it up between running alone and running with other people,” said Brian Passenti, longtime avid runner and triathlete, and one of the Glenwood Springs representatives on the board of the new Roaring Fork Running Club.”I do like the solitude of running by myself, but I also like the camaraderie of running with a group and sharing my love of running with others,” Passenti said.”It’s just a great way to get to know people and build that common bond and interest in running,” he said.

That’s exactly what Basalt resident Brion After had in mind when he began organizing weekly group runs at the time he opened his Independence Run & Hike shoe and apparel store in Carbondale six years ago.”Originally, one of the ideas was that I wanted to bring the valley’s running community together,” After said.The Saturday morning group runs in Carbondale were an instant hit, drawing a dozen or more runners on some weeks.After soon added a mid-week evening trail run, featuring a different single-track trail somewhere in the valley each week.It was on one of those trail runs four years ago, along the Arbaney-Kittle Trail outside Basalt, that After met Betsy Herzog.Herzog, having just run her first half marathon in Washington, D.C., before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley, admits she was a little intimidated at first.That evening’s trail run drew some of the top competitive runners from the area, and Herzog was struggling to keep up.But she kept coming to the group runs, and eventually she and After hit it off. They are now engaged to be married.Earlier this year, Herzog took the lead to organize the valley’s first official running club.The Roaring Fork Running Club is a nonprofit, dues-based club that promotes running for all ability levels. It is also an affiliate of the Road Runners Club of America, which offers discounts on races and gear and other benefits.”We wanted to create a way to provide more running opportunities throughout the valley, not just in Carbondale,” Herzog said. “A lot of people don’t come to the Saturday runs, just because of the distance to drive to Carbondale.”

The fledgling Roaring Fork Running Club (RFRC) now has a couple dozen active members, an email list of more than 100 and more than 125 fans on its Facebook page. Each week, runners of all speeds and abilities are welcome to join the group runs, which take place from Glenwood Springs to Aspen.”There are so many runners in the valley, and we wanted to provide all of those people an opportunity to run together, learn new trails and routes, and have a way to connect with other runners,” Herzog said.To ensure geographical representation, the club’s board is made up of members from Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen.Occasional trail runs are also organized through the club network.And the club is working to line up business sponsorships in each of the communities to provide discounts to members, in exchange for being a starting or stopping point for the group runs.The $30 annual club membership dues allow runners to attend any of the group runs, and includes membership in the Road Runners Club of America.”With some more local business sponsorships we can also offer members something besides the group runs,” Herzog said.Eventually, the club also hopes to organize a race series, coaching seminars, speakers and other social events, such as potlucks, After said.It’s a great way to coordinate events within the loose-knit running community, he said.”You’ll see a lot of different groups pop up here and there, and then disappear. And keeping track of races and events is always a challenge,” After said.The club is a way to get like-minded individuals together to coordinate things a little better, he said.

Emily Steers moved to the valley and began working at Independence Run & Hike last fall. When she was living in Vermont, the outdoor store she worked at organized a regular “just for fun social run” one night a week.Soon after coming here, Steers suggested to After that they start an evening group run in addition to the Saturday run.Better yet, each run would end at one of the local watering holes.The “Thirsty Thursday Beer Run” is now a regular run on the RFRC calendar, starting at the store and usually ending at Carbondale Beer Works.”As we were moving into late fall and winter, it turned into a great way to get people out for a run when they might not otherwise do it,” Steers said.”We thought we’d make it a fun, after-dark run with reflective gear and headlamps,” she said. “That way, it’s more of an adventure run.”Jim Harris of Carbondale, an avid runner since his college days, was a regular at the Saturday group runs when the store opened.”Otherwise, I end up running by myself all the time,” he said. “It’s just a lot more fun to go out with a group.”The beer runs are the best, because you get a reward at the end,” Harris added.Passenti said he “jumped all over” the idea when After asked him to join the RFRC board and help organize the Glenwood Springs runs.”We typically have about five or six runners, but the word is starting to get out,” Passenti said of the local group runs, which began in June.Abbey Walters, a 2005 Glenwood Springs High School graduate and former track athlete, also helps organize the runs.”I just enjoy running with other people, and it’s nice to meet new people who enjoy doing the same thing,” she said.Glenwood Springs resident Mark Bauer said he typically trains for triathlons by himself. But the Tuesday runs are a good way to add a social element to his routine.”It’s always fun to be out with friends and what-not,” he said. “If I can get a training run in at the same time, that makes it even better.”Glenwood Springs group run regular Jason Rash said he’d like to organize a local “hash house harrier.”The popular social runs are common in Europe and other parts of the United States. They involve a single runner or group, “hare or hares,” who set out and mark a course for the other runners to follow.The runs typically end at a pub or restaurant, but participants have to keep track of the course markings in order to end up at the right place.”I think there’s a lot of fun to mix it up and make it fun,” Rash said. “It would be nice to get more traction down here in Glenwood.”

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