The Triple Trail Challenge is going virtual this year |

The Triple Trail Challenge is going virtual this year

Natalie Como (229), Sam Lepey (306) and Eric Malkowski (117) cruise down the Iron Bill trail at the Utah Olympic Park during the Park City Trail Series' Mid-Mountain Marathon in 2018. This year, the Mid-Mountain Marathon will be done virtually and can be completely throughout the entire month of August.
Park Record File Photo | The Park Record

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures — or at least, that’s the way Charlie Sturgis and his staff at the Mountain Trails Foundation are seeing things.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Sturgis and his staff have had to come up with new ways to hold some of the foundation’s events instead of canceling them.

“It was important to us to be able to keep things going because it’s a huge part of what we do for this community, giving the people the opportunity to be outside and have fun,” Sturgis said. “So when we got together for our meetings, it became about making sure we are able to hold as many events as possible while being as safe as possible. Yes we had to cancel a few but we want to make sure we give the community the option to participate if they want.”

With that being said, the annual Triple Trail Challenge was set to begin at the end of June with the Round Valley Rambler. But with the new Summit County restrictions forbidding the gathering of more than 20 people, hosting the Rambler, which had just fewer than 300 competitors last year, was deemed impossible.

So when Sturgis and his staff began brainstorming ideas on what to do, hosting the race virtually came up — and according to Sturgis, was a great idea right away. For Mountain Trails, it wasn’t just a business decision to try and make them happen, it was also about trying to do right by a community that thrives on outdoor activities.

“I’m not even sure who came up with the idea to host virtually to be honest. It might’ve been Ginger (Wicks, event director) because she’s on our staff but also heavily involved with the community, but I’m completely positive on that,” Sturgis said. “I believe the idea originally came up at a staff meeting where we were determining to suspend or cancel the races but as soon as going virtual was brought up, we thought that this could actually work. We were figuring out ways to fundraise for it and I like what we’ve come up with.”

This year, all three events of the challenge will be done virtually. And according to Sturgis, it’s all about having fun.

Competitors can sign up online and choose when to run the half-marathon, either on the original course at Round Valley or near their place of residence. For those who might not be able to do the half marathon in one go, it can be broken up into portions to be completed in June.

“This is an excellent opportunity for people to do the race when they’re feeling their best and not on a planned day. They can chose the friends they run or walk with and have some fun doing it, because that’s what it’s about,” Sturgis said. “Everyone is a winner for showing up and doing it. … It’s a big deal to the community with everything going on around us, so those who do it will have a chance to get sidetracked while meeting some of their own goals.”

However because of the new format, there will not be podium placements for the top finishers — but those who do register and complete it will get a medal.

The Triple Trail Challenge is a series of three races totaling 78.6 miles that take place in June, July and August. that will test even the most seasoned of runners throughout that time period as it covers 78.6 miles throughout.

It all starts with the Round Valley Rambler in June, a half marathon that features a 1,586-foot elevation climb throughout. A month later, the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase was set to run, a 16-mile race that features 3,000 feet of elevation climb. The finale is the Mid-Mountain Marathon in August, a 26.2-mile course that features 3,800 feet of climb and 5,000 feet of decline.

“Its super cool because winning it means you really are at the top of the best racers in the area,” Sturgis said. “To be consistent for three hard races especially because each race gets more difficult as they go along, it’s impressive and great for the winners.”

Because the Mountain Trails Foundation is a nonprofit, it relies on the fundraising from these events to help build, maintain and protect the trails year-round, while also helping create new ones for the community to use. Sturgis is proud that he and his team were able to come with a way to make this work for the Foundation while still serving the community.

“This is around the 15th year of going on, and I feel really positive about it because our staff is completely on board,” Sturgis said. “I hope people attack all of the races with the same enthusiasm that we do.”

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