What started out as a senior capstone project has now become a mainstay in the Park City trail running community.
Rhielle Widders, the founder of R-U-N? Events, will team up with Mountain Trails Foundation to host the Park City Trail Series for the fifth year beginning June 21 with a 5K trail run in Round Valley.
Widders said she's thrilled with the response Parkites have given to the running events she created.
"I'm very excited to have it in its fifth year," she said. "I originally started it as my capstone project for my degree in parks and recreation. I just wanted to create a way for new runners to get into trail running because that's my passion."
She never imagined she'd be asked to keep the series going.
"The first year I did them, I thought it would be a one-time thing," she said. "But there were people after every race that asked, 'You're going to keep doing these, right?' I said yes and I've kept my word."
Starting with the 5K race, the 2014 series works its way up to a half marathon, with 10K and 15K races in between. The 10K race is July 12, the 15K is Aug. 9 and the half marathon is Sept. 20. All races begin at 8 a.m.
Widders said the goal of the series is to help runners accomplish a half marathon by the end of the summer.
"I think the half marathon is sort of an iconic distance," she said. "But a lot of people are intimidated by the distance and don't know how to get there. This helps them work their way up.
And, she added, don't worry if you've never run a trail race before you'll be running with a lot of other beginners, too.
"We cater to runners of all types," she said. "A lot of trail races, you kind of have to be an expert. For our races, you can never have set foot on a trail before and still do fine. That's what makes us different from other series."
Since the races have only been increasing in popularity, Widders said she has no plans to discontinue the series.
"As far as I know, we're just going to keep going as long as people keep coming and doing it," she said.
With the increasing popularity, though, comes a rush to sign up for the races. Widders said it's a good idea to register early.
"We usually do race-day registration unless they fill up," she said. "Last year we had two of our four races fill up. So far this year, we're looking great. We've had a huge spike [in registrations] the past couple weeks. It looks like the 5K will definitely fill up."
Registration for the 5K costs $35 before June 8, or $40 between June 9-20. Registration for the whole series is $145 until June 1, $150 until June 14.