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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Robie Creek-Leveling the Playing Field.

Yesterday the mayhem that is registration for the Race to Robie Creek came and went.

If you have not heard of the Race to Robie Creek, or "Robie" as locals and veterans affectionately call it, you are obviously not from Idaho. But do not fear, there is still time to join the culture of Robie. Nicknamed, the toughest half-marathon in the Northwest Robie truly lives up to its name. With an 8 + mile knarly climb and a 4 mile steep decent through Robie Creek canyon, this race is not for the faint of heart. It is for those WITH heart and gumption and guts-well you may lose your guts at some point during it.

Online registration for the April race occurs each year on President's day and fills up within 15-20 minutes-limited number of spots are available (about 2400). In my days at a local running store-a sponsor of the race-Robie sign up was both exciting and dreaded. Exciting because of the energy and mystery surrounding the "will I, won't I" and dreaded for the same reasons. I fielded literally hundreds of calls each year about Robie and although most of them were people asking for information there were always the handful of angry callers. "Why do they do sign up this way?!", "I have run Robie 17 years in a row!", "I am going to win this race and I can't even get in!", "I am going to bandit the race!", "I don't have the internet, how am I supposed to register!" and so on and so on.

But this is all just a part of the culture. In this town, someone finds out that you are a runner and the first question out of their mouth is, "Have you run Robie?" It is because of this question that my husband, Pat McCurry, first ran the race. A Boise native, he had grown tired of this question. With a successful running career under his belt which included a stint running for Nike and an impressive set of fast times in anything from the 1500 meters to 10,000 meters, he decided to put this question to rest, so he signed up for Robie.

Not only did he put the question to rest but he came out and won the race.

Now, I will not go into detail about the IV's he needed after snagging the 'W' nor the complete inability to walk normally for two weeks following the race; but I will say, he gained an appreciation and extreme respect for not only the race itself but the thousands of individuals who put their bodies to the test each year. I recall later that evening when we were talking about the day he said, "That race makes all runners equal". When I asked what he meant he replied, "It does not matter if you are first or last, you will suffer-there is no way around it". And despite his vow to never run it again, he has gone on to run it three more times.

The culture of Robie is alive in Idaho. Each year 2,400 individuals run, scramble, yog, and trudge their way up to the summit and then skid, fall, slide, and zip their way down the back side to the finish line. And every year you hear many of them swearing off the race for life. But then after a beer or two at the finish line party their bodies begin to stop screaming and their memory of the pain fades until you hear them making plans for next year and setting their goals anew.

As T.S. Eliot so eloquently put it, "What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a new beginning. The end is where we start from." Thus, the Robie culture lives on. Not through the race itself but through those who survive it and live to tell the tale just one more year.

Find out more about Robie on their website:


  1. My favorite part of this is when you used the verb "yog". Good use of the term.

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