Runners young and old will take on Robie Creek

Challengers range from a 14-year-old rookie to an 84-year-old racing veteran.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comApril 19, 2013 

If you've run a distance race in the Treasure Valley, chances are you've seen Ken Karcher.

Karcher didn't grow up racing competitively, but he knew when it was time to start hitting the trails.

"I started running in my 50s," the 84-year-old Karcher said. "I found out I was in pretty bad shape. I had a Boy Scout troop, and I was having trouble keeping up with them. So I decided I better start doing something."

And so he began running. And running. And running.

"I guess I've done (Robie) about 12 times," he said. "I've done New York 20 times and Boston about 10 times. I've done over 100 marathons.

"Once you run one race you've got to do another. You do it and set a personal record, so you've got to beat it next time, right?"

Karcher won't be the only one representing the family when the Race to Robie Creek begins at noon Saturday at Fort Boise. His son also will run the challenging half-marathon, as will three of his grandchildren.

Turns out running has become a family affair.

"I guess it has, accidentally," Karcher said.

Despite his age, Karcher still sets goals for himself.

"I'd like to get in under 3 hours," he said. "I don't think I will, though."

He's confident he can do better than the previous year's Robie, however.

"Last year was so hot, and there were people walking past me," Karcher said. "That's kind of discouraging."

Karcher's granddaughter, Kate Whitten, isn't too sympathetic about her grandfather's dismay. She ran in that same heat.

"Yes, it was hot, but he beat me by about 5 minutes," the 28-year-old Whitten said.

Karcher may not know it, but there's at least one runner keeping an eye out for him.

"I would like to beat him this year," Whitten said. "I think I trained a little harder, so I can beat him."

While the Karcher clan carries on a family tradition, the Huddlestons may begin one. Erin, 14, and her mom, Jill, are running the race for the first time.

Organizers discourage runners from tackling Robie before age 14, and no awards are presented for children younger than 14. Erin, who attends Lewis and Clark Middle School in Meridian, is excited to run.

"I like running, and I thought it would be a fun one to do," Erin said.

The two agreed Erin might be able to leave her mom behind Saturday, but that's not the plan.

"She stays with me when we run," Jill said. "Her dad always says, 'Look out for your mom.' But if she could leave me, she would.' "

SPRING FEVER

Joel Weinberg was one of 25 runners to compete in the first Robie.

"Yeah, August of '75, 5 o'clock in the evening," said Weinberg, 66. "There was no Fort Boise Community Center then. We started at the hospital, ran across the field and up the hill. It was different then."

Yes, the course will look different Saturday. But it will draw him back again. In fact, the only thing that seems to be able to keep him away is wear and tear on his body.

"I had two years out with a bad plantar fascia, and one year out with a back injury," Weinberg said.

Otherwise, count him in.

"It's always a rite of spring," he said. "It's always a fun thing."

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