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By Kirsten Le Roux
Special to The PREVIEW
GECKO (Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors) finalized their 2014 summer racing schedule last week and it’s a marathon in itself. In almost doubling the number of races from last year, GECKO has also tiered these as either “Marquee” or “Community” events, adding three low-key, non-competitive run/walks that are geared towards families and fun.
Kicking off the season on May 24 is a new “dog and jog,” that will feature a 3k and 5k Doggy Dash and Dawdle open to people and their furry friends.
Another new community event this year is the Fourth of July “Star Spangled Shuffle,” again 3k and 5k distances open to all abilities and encouraging participants to wear red, white, blue or stars and stripes. Prizes will go to the best and brightest outfits on the course.
For the ever-popular Turkey Track Trail Run and Devil Mountain Ultra, now both in their sixth year, GECKO has added shorter distances of 5k and 10k to encourage participation from all runners. This is also an excellent opportunity for road runners to make the transition onto trails in a safe and fun way.
The XTERRA Triathlon was a tremendous success in its inaugural year in 2013 and it will feature again in this year’s calendar. In addition, it will be followed the next day with a new event called the PLOW (Pagosa Lakes Open Water Swim Challenge); a half- and 1-mile swim in Lake Pagosa.
In 2014, GECKO has committed to staging a kids’ (10 and under) free fun activity at each of the events, following the success of the 1-mile fun run at the Chile Cha Cha and EPIC’s Strider Cup last year.
Most recently, GECKO has confirmed a very exciting new Marquee event to be staged at Wolf Creek Ski Area on July 19 called “8 hours of Wolf Creek.” Athletes will be able to choose between mountain bike or trail running categories and for eight hours will aim to complete as many laps of a short and intense looped course as possible, coming back to “base camp” after each lap to refuel at the aid stations in a festive atmosphere. There will be a relay team open, as well for those that want to split the eight hours between more than one person. The challenge of racing at altitude will also appeal to those athletes preparing and training for longer endurance events in Leadville, and other parts of Colorado later in the summer.
Once again, with the Epic Mountain Challenge two-day event, now in early summer, Pagosa Springs will play host to the country’s top mountain bikers, runners and triathletes as they compete for a whopping $60,000 prize purse.
Looking further afield, GECKO will launch the world’s highest road marathon (and half marathon) in September. Hosted by Leadville, which sits at 10,200 feet of altitude, the event will give Pagosa athletes a challenging race to travel to and will allow us to promote GECKO events in Pagosa by tapping into the existing Leadville athletic following.
As always, proceeds from the full calendar of events will go to fund GECKO scholarships that help get teenagers unplugged, off the couch and outside. Kids that attend these outdoor trips, which allows them to connect with nature in a unique way, have their lives significantly changed forever.
GECKO prides itself on staging world-class, quality events that attract athletes from all over the country and even the world. It relies on the community to help spread the word of these events and promote Pagosa trails and facilities wherever possible.
Here is an overview of the 2014 GECKO events calendar:
Saturday, May 24, 10 a.m. — Doggy Dash and Dawdle 3k and 5k (City Market area).
Saturday, June 7, 8 a.m. — XTERRA Turkey Track Trail Marathon, 1/2 marathon, 10k and 5k all on scenic, 100 percent single track (Turkey Springs).
Saturday-Sunday, June 28-29, 9 a.m. — EPIC Mountain Challenge two-day, four-stage EPIC run/ride format, teams and solos and individual event participants (Town Park, San Juan Street).
Friday, July 4, 8 a.m. — Star Spangled Shuffle 3k and 5k (Town Hall/Community Center precinctparking lot).
Saturday, July 19, 8 a.m. — eight hours of Wolf Creek Mountain Bike and Trail Run (Wolf Creek Ski Area).
Saturday, Aug. 2, 9 a.m. — XTERRA Pagosa Springs Off-Road Triathlon 1.5km swim/16-mile bike/6.2-mile trail run (Sullenberger Reservoir, Cloud Cap Avenue).
Sunday, Aug. 3, 9 a.m. — The PLOW Pagosa Lakes Open Water Swim Challenge 1-mile and 1/2-mile swim (Sullenberger Reservoir, Cloud Cap Avenue).
Saturday, Aug. 23, 6:30 a.m. — Devil Mountain Ultra 50k and 50 miles — One hell of a run. Followed by bonfire, camping and a pancake breakfast (Turkey Springs).
Saturday, Aug. 23,12 p.m. —Demons of Dust 5k, 10k and 1/2 marathon trail hike/run (Turkey Springs).
Sunday, Sept. 7, 7 a.m. — Rocky Mountain High-est Road Marathon and Half Marathon (Leadville).
Saturday, Sept. 27, 8:30 a.m. — Mountain Chile Cha Cha Festival 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon on downtown trails, followed by a free concert and green chile cook off (Town Park, Hermosa Street).
Saturday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m. — Sweaty Santa 3k and 5k Fun Run/Walk (Ross Aragon Community Center).
Anyone interested in learning more about GECKO events or other GECKO projects, either as a promoter, participant, sponsor or volunteer, should visit the website at www.joingecko.org, contact Events Director Mike Le Roux at 398-0613 or email email@example.com.