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A life on the run: Nancy Hobbs bound for the Colorado Running Hall of Fame

Photos from the Colorado Running Hall of Fame induction ceremony

As a child, Nancy Hobbs loved horses. She rode competitively, but she also thrived on organization.

"I was 11 and we'd put on horse shows at the barn where I rode," Hobbs said. "I was always putting stamps on envelopes to mail fliers, or working with the announcer, tabulating results and working with the judges."

She excelled at organizing everything except her bedroom, which was never clean. But she loved detail.

"I think my mom would tell you I was a little bit controlling," she said.

She still enjoys horseback riding, but her life took a turn in 1980 when she tried her first running race.

"It was just for fun," she said. "I had a goal of running eight-minute miles and I did it, and I got the bug."

Her natural gift for administration and planning took over. Running was more than lacing up her shoes and dashing into the morning light. There was work to be done, and three decades later, Hobbs, 52, of Colorado Springs, is recognized as one of the most influential members in trail running's world community.

She has dedicated her life to promoting the sport and helping others be successful. On Wednesday, she'll get something back when she is inducted into the Colorado Running Hall of Fame at the Denver Athletic Club.

"At first, when they told me, I thought they were kidding," she said. "I wasn't really in shock, but I was surprised and humbled."

She'll join five others, including Jay Johnson, Doug Bell, Lidia SimonMarshall Ulrich and Jane Welzel in the 2013 class.

Her resume is deep and colorful. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Started the USA Women's Mountain Running Team in 1995. She still manages the men's and women's teams.
  • Was instrumental in starting the USA Junior Mountain Running Teams.
  • Serves as Executive Director of the American Trail Running Association, an organization she founded in 1996.
  • Passed up a lucrative job with the CIA to move to Colorado Springs and become Race Director for the Triple Crown of Running, a position she held for nine years.
  • In 1989 she brought the Road Runners Club of America Convention to Colorado Springs. It remains the highest attended RRCA Convention in the organization's history.
  • She is the Membership Director for Running USA, a position she has held for four years.
  • She is the only American to have ever served on the World Mountain Running Association Council.
  • Helped found the USA Track and Field Mountain Ultra Trail Council in 1998, and still serves as chairperson.
  • Co-authored the book "The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running" with Adam W. Chase.
  • Worked for the International Skyrunning Federation, the Vail Recreation District and Timberline Athletics Trail Series.
  • She is a member of the Triple Crown of Running race committee, chairs the Colorado Springs City parks board, and serves on the Incline Friends committee

"Helping people to reach their dreams, I think, is really important," Hobbs said.

Her work has never been about her. Longtime friend Anita Ortiz said Hobbs always operates at ground level when it comes to dealing with others.

"Most busy people just don't have time," Ortiz said. "Nancy puts just as much energy into other people and her friendships as she puts into her work."

Hobbs said starting and helping to build the U.S. Women's Mountain Running Team is the highlight of her career.

"No question, hands down, that's the biggest thing for me," she said. "There was no women's team and it took a long time to build a team. In 1995 we finished last (in the world championships), but we were there."

Ortiz was the first U.S. woman to place in the Top 10 at worlds and offered hope for the future. The team responded with a bronze medal in 2004, before capturing gold in 2006 and 2007, bronze again in 2009, and another gold in 2012.

Hobbs thrives in a fast-paced environment. Her mother, Peggy Hobbs, said Nancy was "off and running at Day 4. She wiggled from one end of her crib to the other. And she's been running ever since."

Ortiz marvels at Hobbs' ability to focus under pressure.

"Nancy works best and is happiest when she is going full-tilt. Activity is the air she breathes," Ortiz said.

Hobbs seems to know she can out-work everybody. She said a quote from Ken Chlouber, founder of the Leadville 100 races, has always stuck with her.

"You are better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can," she said.

Athletically, Hobbs doesn't like to be pushed around. She played field hockey in high school and earned a reputation.

"I'd get thrown out of the games," she said. "I was pushy. I was tough."

She attended the University of New Hampshire and was recruited at a frat party to become a coxswain for a men's club rowing team. Like everything else she tried, she was excellent at it. Barking orders was certainly no problem.

"It was the best experience ever in a sporting environment," she said. "You're the heart and soul of the boat."

She was later invited to a national training camp, but turned it down to earn money for college.

Hobbs has never been a fast runner, but she's determined. Nine months after her first running race, she clocked a 3:53 in her first marathon.

"My longest run before that was 13 miles," she said. "I had aspirations in the early 90s that maybe I could qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials, but I never though of myself as a good runner."

The marathon never panned out for her, but she did place 11th in the Pikes Peak Ascent in 1993 with a respectable time of 3:09.

Now she runs almost daily - Section 16 is her favorite trail - to prepare for the World Masters Mountain Running Championships.

"What I'm really excited about is being competitive in my age group," Hobbs said. "I like knowing I'm able to run and get a little smarter about it. The thing about running is ... you learn every day about what you can and can't do. That's what I've gotten from running, is that it's an educational process."

She says running has given everything to her.

"If I can give half of it back, then I've done a decent job and I can feel proud of what I've done," she said.

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Well deserved! Nancy is awesome.


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