Last weekend, Great Plains Running Co's 2009 Race season kicked off with the first race of the four event Rock Creek Trail Series. I was a bit worried how many runners we might have show up for the 10K and accompanying 5K as we moved up the date of the first race by a month and half. In addition we had problems getting our brochures out on time and various issues with our web-site which have now been resolved. Despite my concerns and thanks to an absolutely beautiful morning, 75 runners made the short trip out to Perry Lake State Park for what turned out to be a very fast morning of racing. By the end of day three new course records were set as well as three new master's records.
In 2007 the Rock Creek Trail Series was created in an effort to help grow the sport of trail running in North East Kansas. Ben, Kyle and the Trail Nerds were already helping runners
in the Kansas City area discover the joy of going "off road" while the Kansas UltraRunning Society (KUS) had been going long for years. In 2006 we had just over 200 runners enter ROCK CREEK events and last year we saw that number jump to over 330. Not only were the sheer number of participants increasing, but the quality of the runners were improving as well. Over this past winter we've seen more and more runners hitting the trails and several step up to run their first Ultra. Hunter Munns (who finished second overall in the 5K) and the Sunflower Striders have recently added a trail dimension to their club and a recent article in UltraRunning magazine lists Kansas as having more Ultra finishers in 2008 then any other state in the Midwest with 339. While we were certainly not the first on the scene (KUS) or the largest (The Nerds) we are proud of the role we have been able to play these past few years in growing the sport that has given me so much.
We are equally proud of our runners! The times that were posted last Saturday are proof that the quality of trail running in our area has improved dramatically. Yes it was a beautiful, cool morning and the trail was in great shape, but I believe the real difference is experience (time on trails), training and the increased competition. Congratulations to Eric Wenrich (37:45) and Kim Deckert (49:27) on their record setting 10K victories and to Gabe Bevan (23:02) , new course record) and Kelly Hennes (27:21) in the 5K
As proud as we are of those who are setting the pace up front, we are equally proud of those folks who come out of curiosity, wonder why the miles are so hard and yet are instantly hooked. We look forward to watching them in the year ahead as they accomplish things they never thought were possible.
So, it would seem trail running in North East Kansas is alive and well, and with three of four winners coming from Topeka, it appears Topeka is developing somewhat of a trail culture, which should make for an exciting year at Rock Creek.