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Beacon Senior News

All speeds welcome: Mesa Monument Striders appreciate Western Colorado’s beauty on foot

Apr 04, 2022 02:10PM ● By Lauren Berg

Think running clubs are just for the younger crowd? Mesa Monument Striders invites you to think again, boasting a community of Grand Valley runners that hail from all walks—and speeds—of life.

Founded in 1978 by a group of avid runners, Mesa Monument Striders is a Grand Junction-based running club that hosts weekly group runs as well as monthly races in Western Colorado. It’s also an affiliate of the Road Runners Club of America.

While some may know the club for its grueling race up and down Mt. Garfield (dubbed the “Garfield Grumble”), its weekly group runs are much more casual and easily accessible to beginners. 

“It’s a very welcoming group. We have a wide range of abilities and ages of people that come,” said Tom Ela.

Ela, 69, has been an active member of the Striders for the past 25 years and is currently in charge of the club’s membership. 

According to Ela, it’s not uncommon for people to discover the sport later in life. 

“One guy just turned 70 and he started when he was 50,” he said.

Personally, Ela used to say he would never be a runner—that is, until he was “tricked” into running while hiking in Colorado’s mountains shortly after he moved back to Grand Junction in 1985.

“A couple of my friends were runners,” he shared. “After I got into pretty good shape climbing fourteeners, they just took off running down one and I said, ‘I’ll just jump in and run along.’” 

While some join the Striders to help train for future races, the vibe of the 170-member club is centered around encouragement rather than competition. It’s this community that keeps club members returning. Ela, for example, still plans to join the Striders for their weekly run in spite of his recent knee surgery. He joked that the club will now have it’s very first walking division.

“It’s our little escape time to not have to worry about the real world and just talk about exercise and nature and fresh air,” he said.


Become a Strider

Membership costs $20 per year, which helps fund the group’s events. However, membership is not required to join the club’s weekly runs or to attend races. 

Ela said weekly runs are a great place to start, offering a range of distances catering to each individual’s goals and ability. Runners are also encouraged to bring a chair and hang out afterwards with their beverage of choice. Group runs can range from six to 40 people, with certain events like the club’s homemade peach ice cream run (held in late summer) attracting a larger crowd.

Ela’s personal favorite is the Turkey Flats Race on June 26 up in Glade Park.

“Usually the wildflowers are just peaking about then. A lot of us go up and camp for the weekend,” he said.

But when it comes to running in western Colorado, every trail is someone’s favorite.

“It’s a wonderful area of opportunity to get out in all kinds of environments. Desert, urban…it’s all accessible and close,” Ela added.

To learn more about the club’s upcoming events or to get involved, visit www.mesamonumentstriders.com or call Ela at 970-773-3124.

Upcoming Runs

Mondays, 6 p.m.

Fruita trail run
(
see Facebook for location)

Thursdays, 6 p.m.
 
Lunch Loops run

Saturday, April 2
Widowmaker Race

Saturday, May 28
Garfield Grumble

Sunday, June 26
T
urkey Flats Race