The Race to Robie Creek™ — A Brief History
Some know it as the long climb to Aldape Summit. Others see it as a “rite of spring” that arrives each year in the Boise foothills. It has been proclaimed “The Toughest Race in the Northwest. But no matter what label you put on it, the annual Race to Robie Creek™ is a challenge to all who dare to participate.
It was 6:00 pm on August 18, 1975, that Boisean Jon Robertson and 24 other participants competed in what was called the first “Idaho Summer Road Racing Championships”. The start would be at Fort Boise (elevation 2725’), up Reserve Street and Shaw Mountain Road, and then climbing the long and winding road up through Rocky Canyon and over Aldape Summit (elevation 4797’), to a 13.1 mile finish at Robie Creek campground at Lucky Peak Reservoir (elevation 3065’) — combining a half-marathon distance with a 2072 foot ascent, and a 1732 foot descent. Such was the rather quiet birth of the Rocky Canyon Sailtoads and the Race to Robie Creek™.
That inaugural event drew little media attention back in 1975 — the Idaho Statesman reported in two sentences that Don Flaten from Boise won the race covering the course in 1 hour, 20 minutes, and that the women’s winner was Cindy Partridge of Moscow in 2 hours, 2 minutes. It was reported that “Flaten, from Boise, caught open division winner Glen Lorenson at the top of Aldape Summit and cruised the rest of the way to victory.” Mark Tappan of Buhl, Idaho, was the high school division winner; Gus Meyers, of Boise, won the 30-40 division; and, Tom Tappan, of Buhl, Idaho, won the 40-50 division.
It wasn’t until four years later, on April 28, 1979, that the race was re-organized for a second running — this time as the “Race to Robie Creek – the Nautilus-Chase Half Marathon Classic.”
That second race, sponsored by the Nautilus Fitness Center and Chase’s Place Natural Foods Restaurant, produced the first commemorative T-shirt labeling Robie as “The Toughest Race in the Northwest” — a resurrection of the original ordeal that, like the swallows to Capistrano, has now become an annual rite of spring on the third Saturday in April in the Boise area for thousands of runners and walkers alike.
One hundred and seventy-one runners participated in that second race where the men’s winner, John Chase, from Soda Springs, shaved more than two minutes off the original course time to finish in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 52 seconds. The women’s winner, Bishop Kelly junior Ellen Lyons, finished in 1 hour, 26 minutes and 32 seconds — only hours after she had run the second-fastest mile and two-mile in state school history at an invitational meet in Caldwell.
The Idaho Statesman reported that year that while a few of the 171 competitors were concerned with such records, most found it a victory merely to have completed the course. One early competitor reportedly told his friend before the start at Fort Boise Park, “I’ll either see you at home or St. Luke’s.”
Two hundred and fourteen runners ranging in age from 12 to 63 competed in the third Race to Robie Creek on April 19, 1980. Boisean Steve Jennings took the men’s title in 1 hour, 27 minutes and 30 seconds, and Sonia Blackstock won the women’s division in 1 hour, 44 minutes and 44 seconds on a course that was 1,000 feet longer due to a mis-measurement on the 1979 course. The small triangular awards for the 1980 race made the first mention of primary sponsorship by the “Rocky Canyon Sailtoads.”
(to be continued)