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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Running Renaissance

Running Renaissance

Hit the trails for a run this season

Story by Howard Riell

Photography by Jerry Clarkson

More runners in the Las Vegas Valley are hitting the trail—make that trails—than ever before.

Trail running is the choice of people who are “fed up with the road marathon rigmarole,” says Josh Brimhall, 38, owner of the Red Rock Running Company. “But running as a whole is growing. You might have read that we are in a second running boom at the moment. I think a lot of people like the idea of having a little bit more low-key, get-dirty-type race as opposed to pavement, hotels. You’re starting to see a little bit more of a laid-back atmosphere out on the trails.”

Another, more pragmatic reason for trail running is that it gets runners off the pavement. “It’s a little bit more forgiving on the joints,” Brimhall says. “You’re not concerned about cars and traffic and congestion, crossing busy streets. You can kind of turn your mind off to some degree when you’re out there and not worry about the other dangers of running on the road.”

Brimhall owns and operates a pair of specialty running stores in the Las Vegas Valley: a 3,000-square foot location on Cheyenne, and a 1,700-square foot store in the District at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson.

Though only about 10 percent of his business is trail running-oriented, Brimhall explains, “It’s growing, though. I’ve lived here since 2000. It used to be that when I would go out and run a trail—let’s say Bootleg Canyon by Lake Mead, for example—I wouldn’t see anybody. But now you can go out there and definitely see lots of other trailer runners; there are tracks on the trail. And there are certainly more races and more participation.”

While 60 percent of runners are women, the thin majority of trail runners tend to be men, according to Brimhall. “For whatever reason men tend to be a little bit more confident on the trail. Women tend to be a bit more intimidated.

Running, Racing, Relaxing

The number of trail running races is keeping up with demand. “When I first moved here 13 or 14 years ago there weren’t, to my knowledge, any trail races. Now, every few months you can find a trail race here in the Las Vegas area.” In fact, Bootleg Canyon hosted the 50K USATF (USA Track & Field, the national governing body for the sports of track and field, cross country running, road running and racewalking) national championships last year.

“That’s a pretty prestigious thing,” notes Brimhall, who served as the co-race director. “We had 174 starters for that race, which doesn’t seem like much. But given the nature of trails being single-track, and the fact that BLM (the Bureau of Land Management) only allows a certain number of people on a given trail at one time anyway, that was a pretty decent turnout. I think we’re only allowed to have 200 to 250 people on the trail at any given time no matter what. You really wouldn’t want more than a couple of hundred running at the same time anyway; it gets a little messy.

Groups like Desert Dash and SMUT (Saturday Morning Ultra Team) hold races of various trail distances at different locations throughout the Valley.

Among Red Rock Running’s top sellers for trail runners aside from shoes are various pieces of apparel, hydration packs (worn on the back with 2-liter bladders for water and storage compartments for food) and gaiters, which attach to shoes to keep the dirt and pebbles out.

Trail running, Brimhall reflects, is an idea whose time has clearly come. “I’m a fan of trail running; I’m a trail runner myself. I think once people get over the initial fear of being on uneven ground and away from the population, they’re hooked. Once they get out there and run they really enjoy the serenity, they enjoy the scenery, they enjoy being away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of society. That’s kind of the selling point of trail running.”


Happy Trails

There are, says Josh Brimhall, “a lot more trails than people think at first notion. When you think of Las Vegas you think of The Strip, but there are some areas that tend to be very popular among trail runners.”

His favorites?

“The most obvious is Red Rock,” he explains. “You go out there and you have a whole bunch of choices. The White Rock Loop is a very popular trail out there. Bootleg Canyon is a very popular trail running area, as well as for mountain biking, and that’s in the southeast part of town. Southeast Henderson or Boulder City is the best area to access Bootleg Canyon. And then you have a newer trail over in Henderson that the city has done really well with called the McCullough Hills Trail System. That’s a soon-to-be very popular trail.”

One trail running spot that Brimhall thinks is “very overlooked” is Mt. Charleston. “A lot of people who don’t live here, or are new to the area, don’t understand that we have an almost 12,000 foot peak just a short drive from the Las Vegas City Center. In about 45 minutes you can be up in bristle cone pines with quite a bit of elevation. There is some great trail running in the Mt. Charleston-Lee Canyon-Spring Mountain area.”

Red Rock Running Company

7350 W. Cheyenne Ave. Ste. 106, Las Vegas


120 S. Green Valley Pkwy. #144, Henderson


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