US Trail Running Conference a resounding success

Written by ATRA Executive Director Nancy Hobbs and Terry Chiplin.

Nearly 150 trail runners, race directors and fans of the sport participated in the third annual Estes Trail Ascent – US Trail Running Conference Wednesday, October 7, to Saturday, October 10, 2015, at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Attendees represented 13 states and three foreign countries – Iceland, Brazil, and Canada.

This is the only event in the U.S. dedicated entirely to trail running. The first two days were focused on helping race directors achieve successful and sustainable trail events. Sessions included interactive speaker panels with an expert line up including trail race directors Craig Thornley (Western States 100 and Where’s Waldo 100K), Tia Bodington (Miwok 100K), and Ron Ilgen (Pikes Peak Marathon), as well as Nancy Hobbs, executive director, American Trail Running Association (ATRA), and from Trail Runner magazine, Jeremy Duncan and Paul Cuno-Booth. The event saw a 20% growth in attendance from 2014.

An expanded expo featured 16 vendors who showcased products and services critical for effective race directing. A networking evening was sponsored by Leslie Jordan, Inc., who was the presenting sponsor of the trail race director program and also provided custom-embroidered jackets to each attendee.

Friday and Saturday focused on trail runners, and included speaker panels, interactive workshops, fun runs with demo shoes from Pearl Izumi, Altra and Icebug, and an expo. On Saturday, a separate track for “newbie” trail runners was led by Hobbs, who along with Adam W. Chase, co authored The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running, and Lisa Jhung, author of Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running.

The Conference featured a bevy of top-ranked trail runners including eight-time U.S. Mountain Running team member Joseph Gray, Team USA athletes Sage Canaday, Michael Wardian, and Anita Ortiz as well as Nick Clark, Josh Arthur, Ashley Erba, and Amanda Lee

The athletes took part in panel discussions, led attendees in interactive workshops and on runs at the nearby Lumpy Ridge Trail. Local athlete, and founder of the Asylum Runners Group, Amy Plummer, also took part in a women’s panel on Saturday afternoon. ATRA’s online marketing director Richard Bolt served as moderator for several panels and also shared details of the newly designed ATRA website.

Estes Park Medical Center’s (EPMC), support was instrumental in founding the Conference in 2013, and they have been a Conference Partner ever since. Dr. Florence, Dr. Taylor, and Dr. Dumont from EPMC participated in panel discussions, while Dr. Florence presented an interactive workshop on flexibility. The EPMC booth was well attended with visitors receiving information on the range of sports-related services that EPMC provides.

Specialty retailer Boulder Running Company and advocacy group IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association) also participated, with IMBA’s Rod Judd presenting on the parallels and crossover between trail runners and mountain bikers.

Sunday, October 11, the Estes Trail Ascent – 5.8-mile trail race, attracted nearly 75 participants. The course featured stunning mountain views and challenging climbs with a finish at Ravencrest Bible School & Retreat Center, which served as race headquarters and provided a post-race breakfast buffet. Honey Stinger donated prizes.

Manuel Lago, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was the first finisher in 42: 24. The top female finisher was Sara Schular, Boulder, Colorado, who raced a solid 45:37.

“You can’t ask for a better trail race location and season to run on it,” explained race director, Belle Morris, who along with the Estes Park Running Club organized the event. “We expect the trail race to continue to build in popularity as more trail runners learn about it and the Conference grows. Providing a trail race at the end of the Conference brings the experience full circle.”

Terry Chiplin, Conference Director, and owner of Active at Altitude, commented, “I am thrilled that the third annual Conference was such a huge success. This Conference has become a signature event that provides a unique opportunity for trail runners and trail race directors to network, share information, and grow the trail running community. We look forward to continued growth of the Conference in partnership with ATRA, and to the opportunity to attract increasing numbers of trail runners and racer directors of all levels to Estes Park, putting this mountain town on the map as one of the top athletic destinations in the USA.”

“To say we are delighted with our involvement as a Conference partner is an understatement,” said Hobbs. “Each year the event grows and I’m sure that 2016 will build on the solid foundation already created, and will continue to attract a varied audience from newcomers to our sport to seasoned veterans.”

Next year’s Conference is scheduled September 28-October 2. For details, contact Chiplin at, or visit A survey to help shape the 2016 Conference is available at this link ( Trail runners, race directors, and fans of the sport are invited to provide feedback.

The 2015 Conference race director program was presented by Leslie Jordan Apparel, with support from Race Director Supplies, MyLaps, Chronotrack, Symbol Arts, haku, fusesport, Honey Stinger, imATHLETE, Race Roster, Marathon Printing, Output Services, Elevated Legs, Fuel 100, Headsweats, Trail Run Project, From the Finish Line, and Champion System.

Trail runner program days were sponsored by Estes Park Medical Center, Trail Runner Magazine, VFuel, Active at Altitude, Pearl Izumi, Altra, Trail Run Project, Icebug, Honey Stinger, Boulder Running Company, TomTom, Elevated Legs, Fuel 100, RecoFit, and Champion System.

The following conference sessions were broadcast live and recorded:

Making Your Trail Race Sustainable:

Trail Running Nutrition & Hydration Strategies:

Trail Shoe, Gear Developments & Future Directions: