New challenge set for end of summer
The organizers of the Park City and Mid Mountain marathons are giving a whole new meaning to variety.
As part of the vision of Park City Marathon, president Jolie McTavish wanted to expand the scope of summer running in Park City, so the two entities are coming together to create the Triple Trail Challenge, a three race combination of the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, half of the Park City Marathon and the Mid Mountain Marathon.
And challenging it will be.
The three races combine very different kinds of running hill running, endurance road racing and trail running.
According to Carol Potter, executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation and race head for the Mid Mountain Marathon, this may be the first challenge race of its kind.
"I think we’ve got something really unique here," Potter said.
The races will all take place within a month of each other, starting in mid-August. With such a time lapse between starts, Potter and Triple Challenge public relations director Corinne Early expected the early response to be mainly local, but Potter has already received a lot of inquiries nationwide.
In order to be part of the challenge, runners must complete all three races. The steeplechase starts the trio with a race on Aug. 12. Potter will have a table set up at the race with information and registration about the challenge.
There is no extra cost to enter the Triple Trail Challenge, just the separate entry fees for each race. Those that complete the challenge will receive a special "bragging rights" embroidered jacket that will show their participation.
Part of the draw for out-of-towners is actually linked to another race. The Mid Mountain Marathon was selected by the St. George Marathon as one of 30 races that would receive a free pass for their race. Because of the immense popularity of the St. George race, entry is based on a lottery system each year, and many runners often lose out. With a free entry offered to a lucky runner at the Mid Mountain event, Potter has found herself quite popular around the state and beyond.
"That added a whole lot of underground marketing to our event," Potter said.
Potter hopes that all three races swill show off the trail systems in Park City to both the locals and those that may have never experienced the beauty of the mountains.
"That’s why we did it from the beginning," Potter said. "The locals just love it, but the trail is our star."
Potter says that the trail system is a huge draw for summer entertainment in general and the races will only add to it. Trail marathons are less common than road marathons and the Mid Mountain Marathon is becoming very attractive to many racers across the nation.
"I think it’s a real community event, but I think it’s great if we are attracting visitors," Early said.
Early also expects that the challenge element will encourage many of the road racers who were planning to run the Park City Marathon to now try the trail running experience. She says that, generally, two-thirds of the Park City Marathon entrants are Salt Lakers and the challenge gives them exposure to the beautiful trails of Park City and some running techniques they may not have tried. Early is planning on completing the triumvirate of races herself and has already begun the specialized training needed for each race.
"You need to be starting now to run a steeplechase in August," Early said.
The Jupiter Peak Steeplechase begins at the base of Park City Mountain Resort and goes eight miles up to the top of Jupiter Peak and back down. Not for the faint-hearted, the challenging race requires stamina and strength both up and down the hill.
Next is the Park City Marathon on Aug. 26. Originally held early in the summer, the 10-year-old race was moved to August to accommodate those running in the Salt Lake Marathon, which moved to June this year. The race starts at Trailside Park and winds around city streets and back to Trailside. Challenge participants are only required to complete half of the marathon, which is being conducted in a two-man relay style. Race organizers will match up pairs if needed.
Finally, the Mid Mountain Marathon will be held on Sept. 9, with a race course running on the trails between Silver Lake Village in Deer Valley and The Canyons Resort. Just like last year, the unique reward of fresh apple pies from the Windy Ridge Bakery, served in specially-made pie plates, will be handed out to the winners. The three events will all be on different timing systems, so there will be no overall challenge champion crowned, but Potter expects that in a few years, an award system like that may develop.
Early hopes that runners will not be scared by the scope of the challenge. Although proper training is necessary to complete each race, she feels that the accomplishment is more in the participation than the winning of the race. She said in the steeplechase people often assume a brisk walk to complete the steep, upward climb, and encourages anyone to try the three races. In fact, Early says that people should view it as offering a little something for all types of runners and skill levels and an opportunity to try something new.
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Trailside Park will receive a 10-acre expansion after receiving a permit from county officials this week. The plan calls for two ballfields, two pavilions and 127 parking spots.