2024 Race to Robie Creek has sun, warm weather for runners

On a cloudless spring afternoon, hundreds of runners set off from Boise’s East End Saturday to run the Race to Robie Creek half-marathon, the 46th time the annual race has sent runners to the Aldape Summit and around the backside.

The race is known as one of the most difficult in the region, with the runners-up being launched at a height of more than 600 meters from a city park not far from the center. Once they reach the summit, they descend to a remote picnic area in Boise County, north of Lucky Peak.

The event is also celebrated for its eccentricities: its founders and main organizers are known as the ‘Sail Toads’, and each year’s race has an elaborate theme and choreographed starting gun routine.

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“It’s my favorite race in Boise,” Eli Medina, 46, told the Idaho Statesman as he was ready to run his fourth Robie. He said he likes “the push, the drive you have to have to finish.”

Boise’s fickle weather in April makes race day a bit of a mess. In addition to the steep climb and arduous descent, runners have had to deal with pouring rain and six-inch slush in recent years.

But Saturday’s course was snowless on the back side of the mountain, runners told the Statesman, and temperatures hovered around 70 degrees while the sun shone brightly.

“You couldn’t ask for better weather,” Medina said.

The theme for 2024 was Dia de los Muertos, complete with a Mariachi band, a Mexican dance troupe called Ballet Folklorico Mexico Lindo, and revelers dressed in brightly colored dresses with skull masks, calaveras and dying makeup.

Two homemade dolls of La Catrina and El Catrin – characters associated with the holiday – stood at the start and finish lines.

Although Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration takes place in early November, race organizers chose this year’s theme to honor race founder John Robertson, who died in November, and others involved in organizing the first Robie races in the 1970s.

Planners set up an altar at the starting line, where participants could write the name of a deceased family member or friend they wanted to honor with their participation.

Hannah Drabinski, 34, told the Statesman she was running in honor of her father, Gene, who was one of the first “Sail Toad” runners in 1975. He died eight years ago.

“When I run, I feel close to my father,” she told the Statesman. “When you run the same course that other people have run before, you feel connected to them.”

Runners headed to the Aldape Summit just after noon, where an explosion of marigold flowers took place, traditionally a part of Dia de los Muertos. The oldest participant was 86 years old and the youngest was 12, according to race director Cinnia Kitterman. Half of the 2,119 registered runners were between 30 and 50 years old, and about 1,000 were first-time Robie-ers – who were about to see why this race deserves its reputation.

The race winner, Nathaniel Souther, 26, of Boise, sailed across the finish line in just over an hour and 18 minutes.

“The race is just surviving the hills, and then you kind of get to the coast,” he told the Statesman.

2024 Race to Robie Creek winner Nathaniel Souther, center, poses with friends after the half marathon. Ian Max Stevenson Idaho Statesman

Danielle Marquette, 39 of Meridian, was the women’s winner, clocking about 10 minutes behind Souther. She told the Statesman that this week she had pain in her calves and could hardly run.

“The hardest thing for me is maintaining (speed) on the descent,” she said. But “it’s just a really fun race.”

Robie has raised over $1.2 million for charity since its inception, and this year the bibs sold out in 30 minutes.

At the Boise County picnic area, sweaty finishers were greeted with cold drinks, lunch and music near the babbling Robie Creek that gives the half marathon its name.

While many runners look forward to the party at the end, joy isn’t always the first emotion they feel after 13 miles of uphill and downhill running.

“You run it the first time and you think, ‘Why would I ever do this again?’” said Kitterman, the race director, who has ridden it eight times. “And then a week goes by and you think, when’s the next Robie?”

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Ian Max Stevenson covers state politics and climate change at the Idaho Statesman. If you like stories like this, please consider supporting his work with a digital subscription.
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