Adventure athlete Steve Ilg takes on Hardscrabble Run

Connecting people to the land lies at the heart of the Hardscrabble Mountain Trail Run, an outreach and fundraising event for the San Isabel Land Protection Trust.

Such connections are drawing acclaimed adventure athelete, coach and author Steve Ilg and his family to this year's event. The sixth annual Hardscrabble run takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 2, on Bear Basin Ranch, a 3,400-acre protected ranch just east of Westcliffe.

 

My 10-year-young daughter, an especially sensitive spiritual soul, loves, loves, loves the energetic and geologic topography of (the course), Ilg says. She speaks often of it after finishing (third in her age group) in her first race three years ago. This year, Dewa is attempting the 5K without Daddy, her first solo 5K ever. Meanwhile, Ilg will attempt to keep (race director and longtime friend Hal Walter) within my slow-running zip code in the 10K. As a former paralytic, self-healed, Ilg must be quite judicious about running these days.

The self-effacing Ilg, who was paralyzed in a climbing accident in 1983, has achieved world-class performances in a variety of sports, including climbing, skiing, cycling and snowshoeing. He has been featured on the cover of Outside magazine twice and was named the World's Fittest Athlete at age 53. His books include The Outdoor AthleteThe Winter Athlete and Total Body Transformation.

At the Hardscrabble Run, Ilg will lead participants in a pre-race yoga session, demonstrating a key component of a training regimen that has kept him on the winner's podium well into his '50s. For 35 years, he has taught people how to improve their sports performance and enjoy more balanced lives by turning their fitness training into a spiritual practice. This wholistic approach comprises strength and cardiovascular training, yoga meditation and nutrition.

Returning racers will recognize the special energy Dewa Ilg feels on the Hardscrabble courses. The ranch encompasses an 1880s homestead and is home to culturally modified trees, which indicate the area was a gathering point for Native American tribes, possibly going back thousands of years. It sits in the Wet Mountains and offers stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

The courses are intended to provide a sense of accomplishment for runners and walkers, with challenging, fun and scenic 5K and 10K routes on rugged equestrian trails, two track jeep roads and short stretches of open meadow. Participants can walk or run the adventuresome 5K or tackle the 10K run. The start and finish are at 8,913 feet in elevation. The 5K features 475 feet of vertical gain and the 10K 1,083 feet of gain. The 10K tops out at 9,030 feet. 

A key component of the event is introducing youth to the importance of land and water conservation and getting them outdoors in a fun and challenging way. Participants ages 17 and younger run for free.

“We want to raise awareness about why land conservation matters,” said Larry Vickerman, San Isabel’s board president. “Bear Basin Ranch is the perfect setting to allow local residents and visitors to experience what we are working to preserve.

After the run, participants and spectators will enjoy a gourmet lunch, live music and prize drawings.

Registration is $40 until May 28; $45 the day of the race. In addition to free registration for youth, school staff in Custer, Chaffee, Fremont, Huerfano and Pueblo counties enjoy a $10 discount on registration.

Proceeds benefit San Isabel Land Protection Trust, a nonprofit organization that works with landowners to protect land, water and wildlife in southern Colorado while there is still time. San Isabel has helped preserved nearly 41,000 acres.

For more information and to register, go to hardscrabblerun.com or call San Isabel at 719-783-3018.

Janet Smith

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  • “Open space does not keep our cities apart; it holds our country together.”

    – Claricy Rusk, fourth-generation rancher