In 1978, Dave Rakita never imagined he would toe the line at the Narrow Gauge 10-mile run for 40 consecutive years. Back in those early years, Durango Motorless Transit – now Durango Running Club – was in its infancy led by a competitive group of runners which included Dave, Mike Elliott, Larry Malick and Skip Hamilton. These guys, who called themselves the “Road Kill Club,” thought up the race with Mike serving as race director for many of those early years.
“When I first ran the Narrow Gauge, running was my main sport, so it was an important race as I had done little racing at that point,” said Rakita.
Today, his résumé includes a long and impressive list of road races and triathlons which includes many national and world age group rankings.
Over the years, there have been a few changes to the race. Originally, it started downtown near the train depot. Later it moved to Park Elementary, then to Animas Surgical Hospital and, for the past three years, at Santa Rita Park.
For the most part, the loop has been the same except for reversing the direction a few years ago. It still showcases the best of Durango with sweeping views of town from the Fort Lewis College rim and a taste of downtown along the Animas River Trail.
It is the oldest consecutive foot race in Colorado history, predating the Bolder Boulder and besting the Pikes Peak Marathon by never having canceled a race.
Second-year race director Shaun Burke is proud to be in charge of the race again and enthusiastic about continuing the tradition that started so many years ago.
“I believe the Narrow Gauge shows that Durango is no longer just a retreat for cyclists, but rather runners with our vast network of roads, trails and other places to run in town,” Burke said.
One of the many things that comes to mind for Dave when he thinks about Narrow Gauge is the many years his wife Bobbi has volunteered at the finish line as well as the countless other volunteers and race directors who have kept it going over the many years.
Being healthy enough to run a race each year for 40 years is another obstacle that has at times been challenging for Dave.
“I have run injured a couple of times,” he admits. “The most memorable being a calf strain which was improving but got pulled again during the race. I put a folded paper cup that I found along the route in the heel of my shoe to reduce the pain.”
Another year he ran three weeks before a heart bypass operation, asking the doctor to wait to do the procedure until after the race, not knowing how large a lesion he had. “I took some nitroglycerin before the race,” he said.
This year, Dave admits he will be running with a bum knee. “I do expect this will be my last year due to my knee unless stem cells work unbelievably well,” he said.
“I have slowed down a lot but am happy to be running the race with Art Rohr and Rick Pearcy; it’s nice to have someone to run with especially as one gets older and (personal records) are not the goal.”
The Narrow Gauge races will take place Sunday, May 28. Information can be found on the Durango Running Club website at durangorunningclub.org.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.