Posted by: Katie Coakley
Opportunities for family fun are abundant at the GoPro Mountain Games, but nothing ramps up the thrill like competition
By Shauna Farnell
Every year, more and more families go head to head at the GoPro Mountain Games but none more so than in running where, in many cases, families – including the dogs – match strides.
“We always stay together,” said 14-year-old Tia Budish from Centennial, CO, who finished second in her category of the 2019 Rocky Dog Trail Run with Australian Shephard, Skye, as well as her dad, Chris Budish, and dog Roxy all in tow. “I just like being with my family. We do things together all the time. We are big skiers. This probably comes second to that … a close second.”
“It’s fun to watch the pros, but it’s so much fun to come out and actually compete,” Chris added. “We think this is the best way to experience it.”
Not every family stays together once they cross the starting line. Boulder resident Tanner Meyer, 10, and his dog, Muddy, separated themselves early on from younger brother Nate and father Joshua at the Rocky Dog in 2019, finishing an impressive second place among the 19 and under men.
“I just like that you can go however fast you want and you’re just free,” Tanner said when asked what he enjoys about running. His 8-year-old brother Nate, who was competing in his first Rocky Dog, did not share the same excitement.
“My favorite part is finishing,” he said.
The family enthusiasm – and talent – runs deep among the Conlon clan from Fort Collins. Parents Melissa and Sean Conlon have been runners since high school and four of their five children have not only embraced the sport but have also become serious competitors: 16-year-old Kevin Conlon ended up finishing third overall in the 2019 Wild Tonic Aprés 5K behind elite runner G Anthony Kunkel and local triathlete Josiah Middaugh.
“I’m a big fan of competing. I’m a pretty competitive guy,” Kevin said. “I get that from my mom, I think.”
Following in the footsteps of his older brother and sisters, who are also competitive runners, Kevin took second in the youth category of his first 5K when he was in third grade; by middle school he was speeding past his parents.
“I really loved it then and I love it now, probably because of them,” Kevin said. “My goal is to run in college and see where that takes me, hopefully beyond. It’s a lifelong thing and it’s in my blood.”
While no longer able to keep up with their offspring, Melissa and Sean can still hang with their crowds. In 2019’s 5K, Melissa clinched victory in her category and Sean took third.
“Even old people can run,” Melissa joked after the race. “We ran Boston together last year – not together, together – and we’re going to do the Chicago Marathon with our two oldest girls in October. It will be their first marathon. The kids are too fast to run with us now, but we’ll usually run together on the weekends and stuff. We didn’t make them, they decided on their own, but seeing their siblings and seeing us running, that encouraged them.”
Various ensembles from the Conlon family have been competing – and been competitive – in the Mountain Games for years. They view running as their most accessible and rewarding family pastime.
“It’s easy, cheap, convenient, healthy … there are basically no negatives,” Sean said. “I love it. Four of the five kids love it. Kevin’s brother is a fast runner, that makes him faster. We are all faster runners now. This was a particularly good result for us.”
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