September 5, 2013 Updated: September 5, 2013 at 8:25 am
Colorado Springs is home to two of the top mountain and trail runners in the country.
Ryan Hafer and Alex Nichols are both members of the 2013 United States Mountain Running Team and will compete Sunday in the World Mountain Running Championships in Poland. To earn a spot on this team, each had to finish among the top six at the USMRT selection race. This year's event was the Cranmore Hill Climb in New Hampshire, where Hafer finished fifth and Nichols sixth.
These runners are not only kicking butt on the national scene but have accomplished plenty at home as well. The region hosts numerous trail and mountain races, and these guys are often first at the finish line. Nichols, 28, won the ADT Marathon in 2010 and still owns the course record. Hafer, 27, won the Hellacious Trail Challenge in 2012 and holds that course record. The Pikes Peak Road Runners organizes two trail series each year, in which the person with the lowest cumulative time after four races is declared the winner. Nichols won the Fall Series in 2011; Hafer won the Winter Series in 2012.
Both have won the Barr Trail Mountain Race, which goes from Manitou Springs to Barr Camp and back. Hafer won in 2010 with a course record time; Nichols won two months ago. Overall titles in the Summer Roundup Trail Run 12K belong to Nichols (2010) and Hafer (2012), who holds the course record.
The Triple Crown of Running is composed of the Garden of the Gods Ten Mile Run, the Summer Roundup and the Pikes Peak Ascent (or the ascent portion of the Pikes Peak Marathon). Similar to the other series, the overall winner is the runner with the lowest cumulative time. Nichols captured the coveted crown in 2010. Hafer claimed top honors in 2012 and has the course record (breaking the mark set by yours truly in 2011).
The most prized trail or mountain race in the area is the Pikes Peak Ascent and/or Pikes Peak Marathon. Nichols finished runner-up in the marathon twice (2012 and 2013) while Hafer won the ascent in 2005.
These gentlemen are tremendously talented. The accolades could go on and on if results were included from throughout Colorado, the country and the world. Let's wish them good luck as they represent our country in Poland!
Other members of our community who have run for the USMRT include Simon Gutierrez and myself. Gutierrez has been on the team seven times (2002-2008) with a top finish at the World Championships of 10th, in 2005 and 2006. I was on the team three times (2010-2012) and my best finish at Worlds was 18th in 2010 when the championships were in Slovenia. For more information on this year's race, visit wmrc2013.pl.
Manning is a former member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team and a math teacher at Fountain Valley School. Read his columns on the first Thursday of each month
in Out There.