Deep in the heart of Colorado's high country, sitting quietly at 8,909 feet is the town of Crested Butte. Mountains of rock and golden aspen trees surround all sides, tucking the town in like a sleepy child at night. It's physical seclusion from the rest of the state amplifies it's unique bohemian style that's become iconic of the town, which has just under 1,500 inhabitants.
In this not-so-sleepy town, Crested Butte Community School sits among the colorfully painted homes with no track of its own, save for an oval slab of concrete. And among those who call that oval, that school, this town, and the mountains surrounding it home, is World Champion, and Olympic silver medalist Emma Coburn.
While Coburn's talents have taken her across the globe where she's run countless laps around tracks of mondo or other assorted materials that enhance speed, Crested Butte's favorite daughter has come home and given back to the community that led to her rise within the world of running. Put more simply, she added "race-director" to her resume when she launched the Elk Run 5k.
"My husband (Joe Bosshard) and I wanted to bring a race to Crested Butte to give back to the community that has given me so much over the years," Coburn explained. "We wanted to raise money for local cancer support charity, Living Journeys, and wanted to create an event that contributed back to the elite running community and brought people to Crested Butte."
A year ago Coburn hosted what was perhaps the most competitive high-altitude 5k in the country. Coburn's long list of fast friends, added by a hefty prize purse, brought it a slew of elite runners, including 2016 Olympic 5k Silver Medalist, Paul Chelimo, 3:52 miler Will Leer, and 15:36 5ker and Kenyan National Team member, Elvin Kibet.
"I wanted to show my peers where I grew up and what a running paradise it is and I wanted to show the people of Crested Butte a great field of runners and have my two worlds meet," Coburn said.
The race was a huge success, selling out all 500 entries, and raising $19,000 for Living Journeys. This year Coburn took it a step further, however, adding a high school race to the event - the Crested Butte Elk Run 5K.
The meet already has six schools entered, including two top-10 squads in 3A, Alamosa and Gunnison, and 5A's Denver East.
"We wanted to grow the race experience for the second year, and thought an interesting place to grow would be to add a high school division," Coburn said. "High schoolers are the future of the sport and I think it's important to provide the kids with exciting race opportunities. We want to have the kids watch the professionals and see where this sport can take people. We want to give the kids a fun race experience, a race where they can push themselves, compete and enjoy the ride."
The course begins and ends on the iconic Elk Avenue, with Mount Crested Butte looming above. Runner's will enjoy a mixture of pavement and gravel, with minimal hills - but don't be fooled by the lack of terrain changes, the altitude is sure to be enduring enough.
The Elk Run 5k is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29, which is right in time to catch Autumn in its golden prime.
"I travel all over the world racing and have found that Crested Butte is the best place in the world to run and is unbelievably beautiful. In the fall, the Aspen leaves are changing and the hills are blanketed with yellow and orange Aspens." - Emma Coburn
For the runner-geeks of the world (myself included), you'll likely be able to nab a photo or a high-five with the World Champ (Coburn), as she'll likely be lingering around the finish line.
And if you're not up for burning lungs at such high altitudes, Coburn's quick to pitch the town itself, which is a true iconic Colorado mountain town.
"Everywhere you look is a beautiful mountain and it's breathtaking," Coburn explained. "The town itself is also a gem. It's called "Colorado's Last Great Ski Town" and had such a charm and personality. The historic Main Street is full of great restaurants and shops. It's the best place ever and definitely worth the visit. After the races, we have food, drinks, games, and a live band. It's an all day party."