Kudos to Team Run Flagstaff for the continued success of the Downtown Mile on the Fourth of July.

Earlier this month, the race sold out for the first time. The women’s running panel and pre-race party at the Green Room were well attended, fun and informative.

The elite races were thrilling theater — and gave credence to emcee Nick Hilton’s claim that Flagstaff was hosting “the most competitive race in America today,” though Atlanta’s Peachtree Race organizers might have a bone to pick.

Still, it’s hard not to get nostalgic about the discarded Snowbowl Road Climb, an ascent TRF used to have in mid-July that served as an excellent Imogene Pass Run tune-up, and thanks to the Mama Burger Challenge put Flagstaff in an exclusive class of races that combine food and running.

Don’t confuse the drink/run category of races that is related to, but distinct from, the food/run combo. Ingesting ain’t the same as imbibing; each has its own challenges and techniques.

We got to thinking after recently reading about the DC Half and Half Marathon, which itself was inspired by North Carolina’s Krispy Kreme Challenge. The first requires eating a basket of half-smoke and chips at 6.55 miles, then returning the way you came. The latter requires eating a dozen donuts midway through a 5-miler and must be completed in an hour.

And so we have decided to revive the Mama Burger Challenge at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 24.

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As those who experienced the 7-mile Snowbowl Road Climb — especially those who dared to watch Brian Tinder throw a burger down his gullet like Popeye — no doubt remember, the true test of the participant was if he or she decided to accept the aforementioned challenge at Aspen Corner with 2 miles of climbing still to do.

Our revival event is as informal as they come, and as such we are going to stay off the roads. We will meet at Buffalo Park, climb on the Oldham steps and use the parking area where the Oldham Trail meets Elden Lookout Road and Rocky Ridge as the glutton’s aid station. Stomachs full, we’ll return on Lower Oldham to the start. With a 7:37 p.m. sunset that night, we recommend bringing a head lamp, just in case.

The Oldham steps don’t have the magnitude of the original race, but they’re still tough enough to curse at. As NATRA co-founder Neil Weintraub said, “I’ve always considered that one of Flagstaff’s toughest hill climbs anyway. I love hating those hills.”

To be clear, by host we mean we will be at that spot at that time and we will have stashed a supply of Mama Burgers at the parking lot.

No liability is accepted by us, and no sponsorship by anybody should be implied. This is simple fun, an homage to a gone-but-not-forgotten bit of local lore.

Anyone is welcome to join us for the Mama Burger Oldham Steps 10K-ish Speed Dinner, and if no one does, then we have delicious Mama Burgers to eat all week. We’d love to see you, but we’re not going to ask twice.

See you at Buffalo Park, and don’t you dare eat a half-smoke before you arrive.

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Myles Schrag is co-editor of "To Imogene, a Flagstaff Love Letter," due out in August by Soulstice Publishing.

Mark Thurston is a 30-plus-year veteran of Flagstaff trail running and hopes to be around for 30 more.


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