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Running: Trail Runs expecting 650 participants

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By Mike Cote

The founder of the long, difficult races that make up the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs was no stranger to long, difficult races himself.

Runner Aaron Goldman saw the race he founded grow by leaps and bounds throughout its four years of existence, but would not get to see its fifth running. Goldman died April 26.

The fifth annual Jemez Mountain Trail Runs will be held Saturday starting at the Los Alamos Posse Shack. The competitions include a 50-mile run, a 50-kilometer run and a half-marathon.

Kris Kern, one of the race’s organizers, said the best way to keep Goldman a part of the race was simply to keep on keeping on.

“We’re doing things the way Aaron wanted them done,” Kern said. “Aaron bent over backwards to do everything he could for the participants and we still do it that way.”

The long run goes up toward Caballo Mountain, Pajarito Mountain, winds to Cerro Grande and back toward the start.

The courses will be identical to last year’s race and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.

“We’re all very happy with the course,” Kern said. “The change we made last year, we added Cerro Grande. Now everything on the course is just about perfect.”

Racing starts bright and early Saturday, with the 50-mile event going off at 5 a.m.

The Trail Runs are among the toughest ultra-running courses in the nation. Kern estimates that it is among the three toughest events in the United States with all three being almost equal in degree of difficulty.

A good crowd of racers is scheduled to be on-hand for the event. Approximately 650 participants have signed up for this year’s event with 196 brave souls scheduled to race in the 50-miler and nearly 300 signed up for the half-marathon.

In 2009, 510 runners took part.

“The race has grown every year,” Kern said. “This is our fifth year and it’s grown tremendously every year. It’s mostly because of the race’s reputation. The runners love this course and they love how hard it is.”

One of the marquee runners slated to participate in the 2010 race is ultrarunner Micah True.

True is one of the best-known ultrarunners in the world and will give a pair of talks on ultrarunning and his experiences living among the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico. One of the talks will be given at tonight’s pre-race dinner and the other is scheduled for Sunday.

More than a dozen runners taking part in Saturday’s races have won at least one ultrarunning event in their careers, which could make the runs very competitive.

For those who will be at the other end of the pack, they have 12 hours to complete the first 36 miles of the 50-mile run before they are timed out, one of the most generous time cutoffs of any similar-distance race in the country.

In 2009, Ryan Burch of Greeley, Colo., breezed to victory in the men’s 50-mile competition. Burch’s finish time of 9 hours, 13 minutes, 52 seconds was nearly 40 minutes faster than his nearest competitor, Dakota Jones of Durango, Colo.

On the women’s side, Darcy Africa of Boulder, Colo., was nearly an hour better than the next-best finisher in the 50-mile race. Africa completed the run in 10:48.44.

The top local finisher in the men’s 50-mile was Jason Halladay, who was fifth overall. None of the 22 women’s competitors in the 50-mile race were from Los Alamos last year, although local runner Jenny Smith took sixth in the women’s 50K.

Proceeds from the Jemez Mountain Trail Runs go to support a cross country/track and field scholarship at Los Alamos High School and the county’s Volunteer Task Force.