The Kennebec Mountain Run, which will be held on August 1 this year, is a must-do for any Durango trail runner. This 15-mile trail run through the remote La Plata Mountains showcases some of the best scenery southwest Colorado has to offer, while offering a friendly, community-oriented vibe.
Now in its 11th year, the event has undergone some changes in 2015, the most notable its 8.5-mile race being cut so race organizers can direct more resources into the main course. A new race director, Brendan Trimboli, who won the race in 2012, also has taken the helm.
Still haven’t signed up? Here are five reasons to lace up your sneakers for the [Kennebec Mountain Run](RunKennebec.com). But don’t wait: The race is capped at just 100 entrants.
1. Finishing comes with great bragging rights.
When a race requires participants to have a Colorado Search & Rescue card (available for $3 online and in various retail stores), you know it’s no slouch of a course.
But cross the finish line, and you'll have more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain under your belt, culminating to a high point of 12,000 feet at about mile 8 before descending to the start. The start of the course is about 20 minutes from Durango at the La Plata City Campground on La Plata Canyon Road. Runners will follow the 4x4 road to the top of Kennebec Pass before descending into Cumberland Basin on single-track. The course, which is has three aid stations, eventually meets back up with the 4x4 road and finishes at the start.
“If you can do (the) Imogene Pass Run, you can do the Kennebec Mountain Run,” Trimboli says, noting that runners “should be comfortable ascending and descending technical, rocky trail at altitude.”
Sections of the course are very steep and rocky and might require scrambling on all fours at times. As this is summer in the Rockies (and a particularly rainy one), runners should be prepared for all types of inclement weather.
2. The spectacular scenery offers a good distraction for your discomfort.
The terrain that makes the course so difficult is what makes it so darn stunning, too, and the race offers an amazing opportunity to experience the La Plata Mountains.
Named after the Spanish word for silver, the La Platas have a rich mining history dating back to the late 1700s when the Spaniards first explored the area. Today, however, this quiet mountain range in southwest Colorado doesn’t see nearly the traffic compared to more popular destinations in the San Juan high country. From the top of Kennebec Pass, at a high point called The Notch, lonesome, windswept peaks rise above lush conifer and aspen forests. The Kennebec Mountain Run truly shows off Durango’s spectacular backdrop.
To help reduce traffic at the La Plata City Campground, Kling Mountain Guides will provide a shuttle service to and from the start and the snowplow lot at Mayday, near the mouth of La Plata Canyon. Only carpools of three or more people will be allowed past Mayday.
3. Affordable entry fees (even on race day).
Race registration is currently an affordable $50 through July 30 and jumps just $10 thereafter, including race-day registration. (We wish more races were as kind with their fees.)
On the same note, non-speedsters can take advantage of the option to start the race an hour earlier than the scheduled 8 am start in order to finish on time.
4. Awesome swag at the finish.
In addition to the basic post-race grub, runners can dig into burritos from Raider Ridge, and the top male and female winners will each receive a massive homemade pie from Kennebec Café. Random prizes from sponsors also round out the offerings.
5. It’s a great way to support a local SAR organization.
All benefits from the race will proceed La Plata County Search & Rescue, a vital service for the adventurers who spend time in the outdoors. What more apropos way to support the cause?