Marathons, they come in all shapes and sizes. The big marathons often weave their way through every corner of the host city, have aid stations at virtually every mile, and are often lined with thousands of spectators. I think these races are beneficial for people who want that communal motivation and thrive on the camaraderie; they also offer a great distraction to get you through 26.2 hard miles!
Then there are the small trail marathons that I love. In these races you are running for miles in between aid stations, often for long stretches when you are alone through beautiful mountains and often have to provide your own support. That type of race has an obvious appeal but is not always right for everyone.
What is farther in between these days is a well-balanced road marathon that offers up a little of both experiences.
The Steamboat Marathon, voted one of the most scenic marathons in the country by Runners World, has the cozy, friendly appeal that only a town like Steamboat can bring, but with the organization of a big city marathon. The SM is even a certified Boston marathon qualifier.
The SM marathon starts in the lazy town of Hahn’s Peak Village at 8,128 ft, which is dominated by the iconic cone shaped Hahn’s Peak. In Hahn’s Peak Village you are only about 20 miles from the Wyoming border, you are truly in northern Colorado up here! The race start is a cozy feel as runners gather and chat in the cool morning air waiting for the casual “ready, set, go”!
The marathon course takes you down beautiful county roads past green pastures dotted with the summer’s first wildflowers and grazing cows and horses. Friendly aid stations greet you every few miles, just enough to keep you motivated and fueled, but not too many to take away from the solitude. The swift running Elk River parallels the course for a few miles offering its rhythmic sounds and cooling mists.
As you get closer to town, Mt Werner’s snowy slopes dominate your view from the south, and as you start to enter downtown the crowds grow. I feel there are few events in Steamboat that bring out more people to cheer on local heroes and visitors alike, from the first to the last runners.
The Steamboat Marathon offers up a few challenges mainly in the way of the bulk of the hills arriving in the second half of the race. The marathon offers up the rare opportunity to enjoy a beautiful truly rural landscape for 24 miles that then finishes in a classic Colorado ski town with all of its amenities. The SM offers a challenge to the veteran or new runner and truly it’s a race where every runner is allotted their own experience and feels that they are celebrated!