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Flagstaff Summer Running Series in full stride

Flagstaff Summer Running Series in full stride

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As the monsoons have finally arrived, so has the Flagstaff Summer Running Series July hiatus. This year, a record 224 runners registered for the series package, nearly a 40 percent jump from last year's 162 runners. So far, 105 runners have completed all four races. A growing trend is the increasing number of women participating in the Series, outnumbering men 124 to 100. And while Series participation is up so is overall participation.

A new addition this year is youth division (18 and under) with 15-year-olds Cassidy Christiansen and Jonathan Hall atop the standings. Michelle Grey and Chris Gomez are leading the way in the Open (under 40) division. Gomez has his eyes on winning his third consecutive divisional crown. The Men's Master's Division (40 and over) is led by three-time champ John Bogen, who has a slim lead over Rob Decot. On the women's side Sara Wagner is well on her way to capturing her record and unprecedented sixth straight Series title. However, the standings are far from set in stone. Because competitive participants are scored on their top three results, strong performances in the last two events can cause runners to leap ahead in the standings.

The Series resumes on Aug. 4 with the 34th Annual Machine Solutions Run/Walk for the Kids. The race includes a 10K-, 5K- and 2K-walk. The race is held on the Soldiers Trail at Fort Tuthill. Since the race is all about the kids, there is a 2K Run/Walk with special family pricing. This is the last of the four 10K races of the summer, so many runners go out after a personal best, despite the challenging hills of the first few miles.

On Aug. 11, the Series concludes with the granddaddy of all Flagstaff races, the 35th Annual Big Brothers Big Sisters Dave McKay Memorial Half Marathon Run/Walk and 5K. In its 35th year, the race is the second oldest half marathon in the state, and fourth longest running event. This year, race organizers are honoring the memory of Dave McKay, who founded the organization that helps Flagstaff children succeed by matching them with appropriate adult mentors. McKay passed away in 2011.

The course winds its way onto Observatory Mesa, taking runners and walkers on a tour through the beautiful Coconino National Forest. As runners near the course's high point at A1 Mountain, they are greeted with spectacular views of the San Francisco Peaks. With Fratelli's sponsoring the free pre-race pasta dinner on Aug. 10 (non-runners $5.00 donation) and Charly's Pub and Grill sponsoring the race's first ever post-race party and awards ceremony, this is a race you won't want to miss. The following day, runners can take the ultimate challenge by participating in the second annual Flagstaff Feats of Fortitude. Last year, nine amazing athletes showed their mettle by completing these epic back-to-back events. Registration for the Triathlon is at www.mountainmanevents.com/mountainman1.htm

So, as summer comes to a close, help support local children by running or walking either or both of these races! Registration and the complete Flagstaff Summer Running Series standings can be found at http://www.virtualroster.com.

Neil Weintraub is the director of the Flagstaff Summer Running Series. In 2005, Neil and several race directors joined forces to get more Flagstaff runners to the starting line. Forty-four runners participated in the first Series. With 224 today, Series fever is spreading. Make sure you catch it next year.

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