High Points: Running in circles | AspenTimes.com

High Points: Running in circles

Paul E. Anna/High Points

I’ve been running round and round lately. And I love it.

Aspen is often touted, and rightfully so, as being a summer mecca for hikers and bikers. The trails and the roads are perfect for those pursuits. But Aspen is a great running town as well, as there are not only terrific trails but also a collective of avid trotters and speedsters who take to the trails, streets and roads all year long.

This spring I am in a running group organized by TAC Fitness and Performance Center. With about 25 like-minded runners of all speeds, we meet twice weekly, once for long runs on the various sections of the Rio Grande Trail, and once for more concentrated speed and strength work at the Basalt High School track. While there is beauty on the trail runs, it is the track work that sets this group apart.

For most of us who run in the valley, we tend to try to find the off-the-beaten track (pun intended) trails where we can get out among it for our solo trots. But there is a different kind of satisfaction that comes from taking to the track and running laps.

In this valley we are blessed to have two really great high school tracks. The Aspen High School track, home to the Skiers, has exceptional views and the tartan surface provides a speedy boost and the Basalt High School track, home to the Longhorns, is a perfect oval with lots of activity and a newly installed scoreboard.

Track running is a completely different mindset than running on the trails. While running out of bounds is creative and freeing, running between the lines forces a little bit more structured focus. In the group sessions we run speed drills called “fartlecks” where we run fast for specific intervals with a slower pace in between. The process requires concentration as you run round and round the track at different speeds. It can occasionally feel like work, but it also provides a framework for the workout. Many of the members of the TAC group are training for upcoming running events in the valley, and there are some outstanding races on the docket.

The first, on Saturday, June 4, is the 45th Annual Basalt Half Marathon, which features a great downhill course along the Frying Pan River Road. The race starts just below the Ruedi Dam and finishes in downtown Basalt. You can run the race for $75 if you pre-register or participate as a two-person team with each member running 6.55 miles for $100. Register at http://www.basalthalfmarathon.com. Buses leave at 7 a.m. sharp for the start line, so be early. Oh, and all proceeds benefit the Basalt High School cross-country running program.

Later in the summer on July 9 is the Audi Power of Four Race Series which offers 10K, 25K and 50K on a mix of single track and dirt roads (runsignup.com/Race/CO/Aspen/PowerofFourTrailRun)

Then, just a week later on July 16, the Aspen Marathon and half marathon (aspenvalleymarathon.com) takes place. This Boston Marathon qualifier begins in Wagner Park and finishes in Basalt on a downhill course with a number of twists and turns.

Yes, Aspen is a ski town and a bike town, but it is also a great running town, as well.

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