Sopris Runoff keeps true to its roots |

Sopris Runoff keeps true to its roots

The Mount Sopris Runoff may be the second oldest distance run in the Roaring Fork Valley, but it hasn’t changed much in its 24 years of existence.

The course from Basalt to Carbondale – which measures just shy of 17 miles – has been tweaked over the years, but the stunning views of Mount Sopris and the character of the event remain much the same.

“A lot of runners who come from out of town tell me this is their favorite race,” organizer Bruce Gabow said. “The scenery is really special, getting that view of Sopris.

“And we keep it real low-key,” he added. “It’s just sort of an old fashioned race where people run for fun, not for prizes.”

Gabow expects around 65 runners at the starting line for Saturday’s 24th Annual Mount Sopris Runoff – about the same as the previous few years. While the race officially begins at the 7-Eleven in Basalt at 8 a.m., Gabow has a new feature this season allowing the slower runners to start before the scheduled time “so they don’t finish dying in the 90-degree heat.”

After leaving Basalt the course continues along Emma path, climbing 1,500 vertical feet up West Sopris Creek Road. It then descends 1,800 feet down Prince Creek Road to Highway 133, ending at Sopris Park in Carbondale.

While the Runoff has kept its local flavor, the course and the scenery does draw runners from outside the area – some of the world class variety.

In 1980, the year the United States boycotted the Moscow Summer Olympics, an unknown runner bolted out of the starting area and never looked back.

“The guy was leading the race and no one knew who he was,” Gabow recalled. “He won the race by far and someone said to me, `didn’t you know that guy? He was on the cover of Runner’s World magazine.'”

It turned out he was on the Olympic team, just passing through town.

More recently, Pete Heck, a familiar face at the Runoff rounded the bend a few years ago with another runner at his side. The runner peeled off about 20 feet from the finish, allowing Heck to win the event.

The other runner was Matt Carpenter, the course record holder for the Pikes Peak Ascent, and “about the No. 1 Colorado runner,” according to Gabow.

Carpenter didn’t register for the race and was using Heck as a pacer as training for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. He turned around prior to the finish line so he could run back to Basalt.

The entry fee for the race is $21 prior to the race, or $23 on race day beginning at 7:15 a.m. The fee includes a special edition Mountain Fair/Sopris Runoff T-shirt. A bus back to the starting line will be provided for runners.

For information, call Gabow at 927-4135.

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