25 June 2014: Slacker a boon for runners, Clear Creek

Slacker a boon for runners, Clear Creek

It’s called the Slacker given it’s primarily a downhill course, but running 13.1 miles beginning near 11,000 feet is still taxing.  Runners from Europe, Australia and across America know if they want their lungs screaming, America’s highest-in-elevation half marathon will make that happen.

13th Annual Slacker Half Marathon and Four-Mile Run is the brainchild of local everything, Beth Luther.  Keeping up with Beth is like running a full marathon.  A slacker she’s not.

From its rookie 2002 season, the Slacker has grown from 850 to about 2,000 participants.  Beth vividly recalls the first day when “Half of my volunteers disappeared to respond to the Fountain Gulch fire at about 11:30.”

Nearly 70 sponsors, some since its inception such as Tommyknocker, Clear Creek County, Pepsi, Loveland Ski Area, and Al Frei & Sons, and 200 volunteers come together in a community effort to pull it off.

“It surprises me every year how eager my volunteers are to help.  They usually call me first to reserve their location along the course.” Beth tells me.  “I am so grateful!”

Me too, especially for Deb Chapman who spearheads the volunteer effort.  BTW: Thanks, Deb, for giving me a bye this year so I can run it for the first time!

“What started out as a fundraiser for three charities has become a movement,” says Beth.  “Obviously, the name itself attracts many racers and novice runners, walkers and joggers like me.  Many people see the name and think, ‘Well, there is no time limit so maybe now’s the time to try a half marathon!’  We’re happy to have them because whether you run a 6-minute or a 12-minute mile, it’s still a mile and 13.1 of them is still a half marathon!”

The Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District, Charlie’s Place (animal shelter), and the Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice are the financial beneficiaries, with Project Support Senior Center getting the beer and hot dog tents donation tips.

The CCRMD’s Youth Scholarship Fund allows disadvantaged children participation.

“If kids want to swim or play little league or soccer and they don’t have the money, we’ll pay for them!  We understand the key to a happy, healthy, positive life is exercise!” beams Beth.

“I’m proud to know we’ve taught 8 kids to swim and 27 more have played little league!  That’s so cool!”

Due to our proximity to the metro area, Clear Creek is sadly often the place where uncaring animal owners abandon their four-legged family members “to live in the wild.”  Many of the fortunate strays find their way to our no-kill shelter.  In 2013 Charlie’s Place spayed/neutered 317 critters, an ongoing effort with so many in need of attention.

Still, Beth notes, “This helps us stay ahead of the game and maintain healthy populations of dogs and cats.”

Nancy Heister of the Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice in Evergreen, which in 1980 was one of the first hospice organizations in Colorado, is thrilled with the Slacker’s support.

“Mount Evans has been a grateful recipient of one third of the funds raised from the run,” says Nancy, “which are immediately invested in the Clear Creek mountain community to help with in-home health care and hospice services.

“Money from the Slacker helps us deliver in-home medical care, counseling services, support, and education to low-income, underinsured, and uninsured patients recuperating from an injury, living with a chronic illness, or facing end-of-life issues.”

Nancy recalls one case involving an Idaho Springs man hit by a jeep who spent two and a half years in the hospital and rehab facilities, undergoing more than 30 surgeries and intensive physical therapy. He was classified an incomplete paraplegic.

“I can move my legs but I’m unable to walk,” he said. “Today, walking ten feet, even with the help of a walker, is a big project for me.”

“The fact that he can walk ten feet is a direct result of his own determination and a great deal of assistance from Mount Evans Home Health Care and Hospice,” says Nancy, “which came into his life before he left the hospital.”

As Beth reminds us, given 25 percent of over-60 people live alone and retired boomer numbers will grow for some time, Mount Evans remains an invaluable community treasure being the only home health provider in Clear Creek.

And, Beth exclaims, “They send 10 to 20 volunteers on race day!”

Beth says the Slacker has always been careful to strike a “three-way balance between bringing people to Clear Creek, raising money for charities, and putting on a great race.

“This is so important because we if we don’t do a good job, the racers won’t come back!  I make it a point to return all emails and phone calls because I know how chaotic and confusing it can be to travel to a new place and do a race!  I want folks to know we have it covered and we’ll take care of them!”

“The Slacker is a tremendous economic force for Clear Creek,” Commissioner Tim Mauck says.  “It showcases our community as family-oriented recreational and tourist destination, sells out overnight lodging, and contributes significantly to our local charities.  I’m certain it continues to pay dividends in return trips throughout the summer.”

It’s not too late to run or volunteer.  Participants get a discount on race-day registration if they donate a nonperishable food item.

Go to: http://www.slackerhalfmarathon.com or call 303-679-2312 or 303-519-0357.

“This year,” Beth enthuses, “I have a gal that is 79 years old running her 80th half marathon!  She’s been running with us for at least 10 years, and I always hug her neck when I see her!  She’s amazing, and I want to grow up to be just like her!  Way to go Vicki de Haan!”

Way to go Beth!  Way to go Slackers!  Run on!

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