Summer Roundup: Colorado Springs' 'best kept running secret'

Christopher Rego took the lead early on as he runs up the trail in the Summer Roundup Half-Marathon at Cheyenne Mountain State Park on July 14. Rego was the winner in the race.

It began five years ago with the Dinosaur Beach Party.

That was the first name for the race at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Dick Standaert came up with it, inspired by the finish line on the Dakota hogback — a tropical scene in the days of prehistoric beasts.

At the time, there was buzz about a trail that would spring off that hogback and finally go to the top of the Pikes Peak region’s second-most recognizable mountain. Standaert went to Pat Cooper, president of the Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

“I said, ‘Let’s have a race going up the Dixon Trail, and each year as more of the trail is built, we run as far as we can and use all the profits of the race to get the trail done,’” Standaert recalls. “That was just a wild-haired idea.”

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It was a meager contest to the hogback and back to the parking lot, about 8 miles. One hundred ninety runners showed up.

Recalls one, Lori Hawkins: “I do remember there was a lot of anticipation of the new trail going to the top. It was hard to imagine.”

It did. The wild-haired idea worked.

Anyone who’s hiked Dixon has the event to thank.

It’s now the Cheyenne Mountain Run, and entry fees since 2015 have spelled around $37,000 for the park, Cooper says. Much of that went to the long-awaited summiting path completed last fall, just in time for the run’s fourth installment.

The fifth this Saturday is being billed as “bigger, longer and better than ever.” The trail has been refined, “in far better condition,” says Standaert, the race director who has added another 1.7 miles with the Top of the Mountain Trail, looping through a dense aspen grove.

That’ll bring the run to 15.3 miles. “So we’re calling it a 25K,” Standaert says.

He’s thinking the extra distance will help with congestion on the thin path climbing through steep, rocky terrain. Not quite as many competitors are expected as last year, when the first trip to the mountaintop appealed to nearly 400.

But Hawkins expects there are plenty like her — plenty who missed last year and crave the challenge.

It is indeed that, she says, a challenge with more than 3,200 feet of elevation gain. Still, “I would like to see it be more competitive,” she says.

Happy Trails: Cheyenne Mountain's Dixon Trail

The Cheyenne Mountain Run maintains its ragtag roots, a lighthearted day for locals who could care less for a prize (the top men and women this time will get vouchers to Trails End Taproom).

“That would be nice if we could make it a destination race,” Cooper says. “There is a desire. How is the big question.”

Perhaps it would mean less money for the park — proceeds still go to the nonprofit Friends — and more for winners. More for staff and marketing, perhaps.

“I think a professional race director could do a better job,” says Standaert, still the enthusiastic, retired volunteer he was for the Dinosaur Beach Party.

“But I don’t know. I’m pretty pumped about it.”

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