Please welcome the eighth of our 2017 American Trail Running Association (ATRA) Trail Ambassadors presented by CamelBak. We’re proud to introduce you to Dave Dutro, a trail runner who builds community as a coach, race director, club organizer, and dog lover. Photo above by Jon Jonkers.
“The only regret I have is that I didn’t start trail running earlier,” says Dave Dutro, a former cyclist. “Had there been a cross country program at my high school, I probably would have done that.” The 46-year-old hails from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, his home since relocating from California in 1982. Dutro pays homage to his high school – Orofino High – through Trail Maniacs, LLC, a company he formed in 2012, whose logo is fashioned after his high school mascot.
“I actually didn’t start trail running until 2011. I was a triathlete and road runner and always hated running,” reflected Dutro. “A friend invited me to do Orca’s Island – a 25K. The people were real. They were friendly and welcoming. It was an epic experience. The race kicked my butt and I fell in love with trail running at that point.”
The experience at Orca’s led Dutro to start Trail Maniacs with a primary focus to bring a sense of community to his local area. “I saw a lot of potential and felt that we needed more of a trail running presence in the Inland Northwest,” said Dutro. “I decided to start a group, just to start running trails. We held our first event in 2013, a Fat Ass.” An added bonus of starting his company was meeting and marrying his wife Kelly who showed up to one of the runs.
Dutro now puts on seven official trail races with the events held April through October. Additionally, there are year-round Fat Ass runs. Event distances range from 5K to 50 miles with the majority around 10k/25k/50k. When Dutro started his trail races, there was just a handful in the Spokane area, which is known worldwide for its annual Bloomsday Road Race. “I wanted to bring community to trail running. I modeled my races after what James does at Rainshadow Running. We have real food and beer at the finish line, sort of like tailgating,” said Dutro. “We don’t have prizes or awards. If we have a 50K, we may do medals.
His venues include state parks, regional parks and even a local ski area – Silver Mountain Ski Resort – where he stages The Jackass Hill Climb. “The hill climb is a race with mountain bikers vs trail runners and the runners always win,” says Dutro. This year’s event will be held on August 19, and includes a beer and music festival at the top of the mountain, which is organized by the ski area.
“For our State Park Series, we get people to come out to the park and stay for the weekend,” Dutro says. “We always do something fun and social…like a bike ride, or a pot-luck on Friday, and then the race on Saturday.” Dutro keeps his entry fees low, like a $25 entry for the 10K distance which includes a meal. There is no charge for the Fat Ass runs. “We’re not out here to make a whole bunch of money, we just want to cover our costs. Our races are capped at 250, and we have consistently grown each year and will probably sell out three or four of our races this year.”
In addition to races, a club membership is available through Trail Maniacs, whereby members get discounts to the races. Membership sits at about 180 members and has grown through word of mouth and also through a trail ambassador program. “We have members put on club-run only events throughout the summer,” says Dutro. “Originally, they were for members only, but now we open the runs to the whole community.”
Trail Maniacs, while a for-profit organization, donates some of the race proceeds to high school cross country teams who come out to volunteer at the races. As further testament to his deep-roots in the community and in the spirit of giving back, Dutro works with the Washington Trail Association to help promote trail maintenance in the area and offers a race discount to people who come out and participate in trail work parties.
To keep trail users active year round, Dutro recently purchased a single-track groomer. “Our winters can be a little bit drab and dreary, and we can have a ton of snow. This year we formed a non-profit foundation through Trail Maniacs to specifically promote snowshoeing, Fat Tire bike racing and skiing. I wanted to see a true multi-use trail system in the area and encourage people to use trails and enjoy our breweries, and eateries all year.”
There are even more facets to Dutro’s involvement in the sport. “Trail running has given me the freedom to be able to help other people,” says Dutro, a reformed workaholic who spent more than 70 hours per week as a personal trainer. In his new profession, his mantra is simple. “My goal is to get more people out on the trails.” Through his coaching, he does just that. He has a stable of about 20 athletes he coaches year round. He also coaches dogs.
“I run dogs as a side business…that way I don’t have to have a dog myself. I travel too much and I don’t think it would be fair to a dog. This way, I have surrogate buddies,” says Dutro, who currently has four dog clients, a Wirehaired Griffon, two mutts, and a Samoyed. “The Samoyed was two years old when I started running with her. The owner said she was lacking muscle in her chest. I ran eight weeks straight with her, three times a week. By the third week, the dog would go nuts, start barking, waiting for me to come take her for a run.” Today the Samoyed is a grand champion, and pregnant with her first litter.
With dogs, as with people, there are many lessons to be learned on the trails. For Dutro, he offers patience as the best lesson he has learned from the sport. “For one, if you are injured, you can’t keep plugging along,” he says. “Secondly, during a race, say an ultra, there is no reason to be in a hurry. Things can fall apart quickly. If you are patient, things will happen. And if not, it wasn’t your day.”
Dutro says he loves to race and lists the 100K as his new favorite distance. “It’s enough time out there, you’re getting the whole experience, but you’re also done before 20 hours or whatever it takes for a hundred miler. I did the Zion 100k this year and I loved it. You don’t have to worry about a pacer. Heck, it’s only 62 miles right?”
Dutro’s advice for someone considering trail running is, “Don’t hold back. Do it. There is no reason to wait. You don’t know if you like it until you try. Understand trail running is not road running. You can walk up a hill. Walking is a nice little break. No one will judge you.”
Writes nominator Cherie Gwinn, “Dave has done an amazing job harnessing an existing demographic of trail runners, and turning it into a group of long-lasting friends. Not only is he educating, but providing a safe environment to learn a life-lasting sport. One of the things Dave says, “Our races are like a family reunion every month, but with people you enjoy.”