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SALT LAKE CITY — For most people, just getting out the door for a daily run can be challenging.
So the thought of taking that training off road can be a little intimidating for a number of reasons.
Salt Lake Running Company owner and longtime runner and coach Guy Perry hopes to make that transition a little less daunting by acquiring the Park City Trail Series.
“We see the Park City Trail Series as a gateway for people to transition to trail from the roads,” said Perry, who bought the series late last year. “It’s a very safe environment and extremely user friendly.” Trail running has exploded in popularity in the last several years, but events still remain a fraction of what’s available for runners. And when it comes to new runners, the options are even more scarce.
In Utah a number of off-road race series have emerged as a way for runners to ease into trail racing. The Park City Trail Series is several years old and takes advantage of the trail system in the Round Valley.
Perry said he stumbled on the Round Valley trail system years ago when he was competing in a mountain bike and running race that only managed to last a year. His love for the trail system, however, endured.
The beauty of the trails is that while they are easy to navigate, well-groomed and picturesque, they offer all the benefits of off-road running.
We let animals onto the course on a leash. It's been animal friendly for five years and we're going to keep it that way. Any dog that finishes the half marathon gets a medal, as well.
“It’s nice because there is nothing super steep or heinous or edgy,” Perry said. “The trails are gently rolling, and you see wildlife from a distance.” The beauty of the series is that it allows runners to plan out a training and racing schedule that can take them from never having run a step on dirt to finishing a half marathon on those scenic Park City trails in just four and a half months.
The races begin on June 13 with the 5K, and then continue with a 10K on July 11, a 15K on Aug. 8 and will finish with a 13.1-mile half marathon on Sept. 19. For those who sign up for all of the races, the price is cheaper, and Perry has an added incentive.
“You get a pint glass for every race you finish,” he said. “If you finish the whole series, you get a set of coasters with really cool animal (pictures) on them.” And those who finish the half marathon earn a medal.
“That’s something they deserve,” Perry said.
One unique aspect of the Park City Trail Series is that dogs on leashes can participate in the races. And in the half marathon, they’ll earn their own hardware.
“We let animals onto the course on a leash,” he said. “It’s been animal friendly for five years and we’re going to keep it that way. Any dog that finishes the half marathon gets a medal, as well.”
Perry said his introduction to trail running came when he was a student-athlete at Weber State University.
“We did a lot of summer training and easy days on the trail system in Ogden,” he said. “I still run two to three days on those trails.” The benefits of running on softer surfaces — like grass or dirt — are numerous. From cleaner air in the mountains to altitude training to easing the wear and tear on joints and muscles, the list of benefits runners enjoy running off-road continues to grow as scientists continue studying the sport.
Perry said the benefits include helping to train stabilizing muscles in your body that will make a runner’s body stronger and more agile. But maybe the best reason to get off the pavement is that running in natural settings is just rejuvenating for the mind.
“It’s just a better way,” Perry said. “The body is happier, and nature is a beautiful thing.”
Registration for the Park City Trail Series is capped at 500 runners and prices increase on May 10. Runners who sign up for all four races get a cheaper per race price and registration is available at www.r-u-nevents.com.
“Being on the trail, early in the morning when the sun is coming up is a wonderful thing,” Perry said. “But then, being on the trails in the evening is also a wonderful thing.”