For Ron Barker, the Race to Robie Creek is part annual ritual and part daily discovery.
The 70-year-old has run in every edition of the race, making Saturday’s event his 40th. While many would be hesitant to run a half marathon once in a lifetime, Barker takes pride in being able to power through year after year.
“Every day is new. And you’re always trying to discover which parts of your body still work, and the mind is still connected. It’s a little bit like gambling. The unknown is somewhat attractive. And afterward you can tell everyone how foolish you were running Robie Creek,” Barker said. “It’s so unique. It makes it memorable.”
The Race to Robie Creek was first run in 1975 and has been held annually since 1979. The 13.1-mile run/walk begins at Fort Boise and climbs from 2,700 feet above sea level to 4,800 feet above sea level over the first 8 ½ miles. After peaking at Aldape Summit, runners and walkers make their way downhill.
Barker estimates there were at most a couple dozen runners in the first Race to Robie Creek. This year, about 2,440 runners and walkers are in the field. The Race to Robie Creek has come a long way, and Barker has seen it evolve. What was once a small group of people running for the sake of running has become one of the major half-marathons in the Pacific Northwest.
The way Barker approaches the race has changed, too. While he might have worried about his times in his earlier days (he ran cross country at Graceland University in Iowa and said he still does some combination of running and hiking up to 20 miles a week), Barker’s goal these days is to make it through in whatever manner possible. That means walking the last stretch of downhill terrain.
“I don’t worry, at my age now, about performance. Durable is the key word,” said Barker, who has a heart arrhythmia. “After so many years, it’s easy to get injuries.”
While each Race to Robie Creek has a specific theme (this year is Retro Robie), Barker has never been one to partake in the wild clothing selections. That’s mainly because he doesn’t consider himself organized enough to do so.
“I’ve even gone to a half-marathon with two different shoes,” Barker said.
While a main reason Barker keeps running the grueling race each year is for self-satisfaction and to prove to himself he still can, he also hopes to be a role model in the process. It’s easy for men his age to stop being active; that should not, however, be an excuse.
“I do want to set an example that aging, there’s a lot of things you can do to enjoy. There’s lots of things we can do,” Barker said. “This is a real test, this thing. But just showing that especially, my high school classmates, it’s fun. You can keep moving.”
The thought of giving up running a Race to Robie Creek has never crossed Barker’s mind. That leads to the main reason he keeps running the half marathon year after year: it makes him feel a way nothing else can.
“It’s the joy of movement,” Barker said. “Time goes by so fast. You might as well show up.”
Race to Robie Creek
▪ When: Noon Saturday
▪ Where: Race begins at Fort Boise (open to the public) and finishes at Robie Creek Road (limited access)
▪ Sign up/cost: The race is soldout
▪ Donations: If you would like to donate money to local charities on someone’s behalf, visit the official Race to Robie Creek website. Last year, $77,900 was raised.
▪ Road closures: Reserve Street and Shaw Mountain Road will have a rolling closure starting at 11:55 a.m. and should be completely reopen by 12:40 p.m. Rocky Canyon Road will have a rolling closure starting at 12:05 p.m.