It's a half-marathon: eight miles uphill followed by five miles downhill, and when you drag yourself across the finish line all you get is a T-shirt. It's the 31st Annual Race to Robie Creek on April 19. It's more difficult than a full marathon on the flats and that might make you wonder why anyone would do it.
"It's the bragging rights," said Jyl Beveridge. "And the beer does kind of taste better afterward."
This will be Beveridge's third year running Robie, and she's doing the run with her sister Trish Beveridge and boyfriend David Glancy. Trish admits that the race was more than she had bargained for the first year.
"Had I known what I was getting into, I never, never would have done the race," said Trish. "I would have been so scared, I would have never set foot on the starting line. But I finished."
Finishing is all it takes. The completion of one grueling 13-miler through the hills behind Boise and, apparently, you're hooked. Trish said the Race to Robie Creek is a rite of passage for Boise runners and becomes a mark you wear proudly.
Weeks before the race, runners pass each other in the hills wearing T-shirts from past years. For some longtime runners, wearing the T-shirt is a privilege earned.
"I never wear a shirt unless I've run in a race," said Mike Shuman. He's run the race 17 times over the years and is familiar with the respect the T-shirt can elicit. "I've got those 17 shirts. People look at you and go, 'God, you did Robie?'"
Shuman owns and runs Shu's Idaho Running Co. on State Street. He will be unable to run in the race this year due to a severe battle with and recovery from cancer, but he continues to train runners. When it comes to whiners who complain about the discomfort of running, he discourages the use of various four-letter words.
"We try to stay away from four-letter words like hurt, ache, pain or ouch," said Shuman. "What we want you to say is: yes, good, nice. When you start using [certain] four-letter words, other four-letter words start coming out of your mouth."
After the Beveridge sisters decided to do the race the first year, they thought training on the elliptical and treadmill at the gym would do the trick.
"Me and Trish were kind of stupid," said Beveridge. "It was not proper training."
Before running the race for the second time, the sisters hit the trails in the Foothills, and Jyl's time improved by half an hour, from just under three hours the first year, to 2:36 the second year.
Shuman doesn't think runners should worry about their times too much, though.
"I've found that slow and fast have the same number of letters," said Shuman, "The people I train, a lot of them are women, and when you're slow the view is good."
Besides the good view when you're slow, Trish feels the camaraderie of the race more.
"I'm right around three hours. I guess I see the tail end of the competitiveness, people who have pushed too hard, or who are limping because they've cramped up," said Trish. "It's a lot of just helping people to get through it."
The Beveridge sisters have never used a trainer to prepare for Robie. Instead they refer to a book titled Marathoning for Mortals, as well as the training schedule provided on the race Web site, which gives a day-by-day running schedule starting from January 1.
David Glancy will be running the race for the first time this year and is using the race as rehab. He had knee surgery about a year ago, but has no doubt he will be able to finish the race.
"I just don't know how well I will be able to stand up afterward," said Glancy.
The race, which used to be only a Boise thing, has expanded to the national running community. That irks a few of the longtime runners of the race.
Dan Finney set a personal goal to run the race 20 years in a row.
"[The first] year [I ran], I turned 40 and decided: What a great way to have a mid-life crisis," said Finney.
Now at race number 15, Finney is nearing 60. He figures if 60 is mid-life and he continues to run Robie, he ought to live to be 120. However, with only 2,431 applicants receiving numbers to run in the race, Finney knows a few folks who didn't get their numbers to run this year.
"If I had gotten shot down this year, I'm not sure I would come back," said Finney. "Robie, the race, would like to branch out and drag people from outside of Boise. I'm not real happy with that. I like to have things provincial. Keep it here for Boise."
Besides, Finney points out, the race can't really grow any bigger.
"You couldn't shoehorn [5,000] people into that park," said Finney. "The space is an absolute."
There is no doubt, however, that Finney will finish his 20-year promise so long as he continues to get his number.
"I think it's like having kids," said Finney. "Over the years, you've forgotten how difficult it is and you want to do it again."
Race to Robie Creek, April 19. For more information, visit RobieCreek.com. Registration is closed.