“Our races are like a family reunion every month, but with people you enjoy,” says Trail Maniacs founder Dave Dutro.

If you’re reading this magazine, then chances are high that you’re already a trail maniac. Trail runners, mountain bikers and hikers all use the same trails in the local State Parks, and all of them find different challenges and adventures every time they head onto the trail. This same notion inspired Dutro to form the Trail Maniacs and the following year he launched the beloved State Park Series.

The State Park Series is the fastest growing trail series in the Inland Northwest. They have earned a solid reputation for their trail running festivities and generous prizes. More and more runners are camping in the State Parks at the races and coordinating potluck dinners the night before. Last year, the SPS gave away over $2,700 in awards, prizes and swag. Saucony recently signed up as the corporate sponsor for the 2015 series, and the Trail Maniacs are very excited about the coming season.

In a nutshell, the SPS hosts events at six state parks from two states (Idaho and Washington), essentially one race per month from May through October. The SPS is a trail run point series, including five-mile and half-marathon distances. Race organizers count your best five out of six races in the series.

Compared to any other series of backcountry trail running events, the SPS capitalizes on two key components that are fairly uncommon. First, the bonds within the trail community are super strong because trail running is so different compared to other workouts – your senses and body are equally tested. Second, these are destination races in wonderful places that really amplify why so many outdoor enthusiasts and athletes love the Inland Northwest. After every race, there’s always at least one runner that reports how running in the woods clearly beats chugging around the asphalt.

Initially, when Dutro was training for several triathlons, he resisted the standard road running model because he thought running on pavement was boring. But when he discovered trail running, everything changed. Physically, it’s a little more difficult, but everything else is so much more stimulating. Trail runs demand constant adjustments, the hills are challenging, the views are rewarding and the experience is always fantastic. It didn’t take long for Dutro to hatch a plan for a race series that celebrates the joy of trail running and the brotherhood of the Northwest trail running community.

For 2015, the first SPS race is at Farragut State Park at the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille May 9. The second race June 13 takes place at Heyburn State Park on the southwest side of Lake Coeur D’Alene. For the third race, the SPS congregates at Mount Spokane State Park on July 15. The SPS skips August in order to avoid the heat, and the fourth race takes place in Ponderosa State Park September 12. The fifth race is at Riverside State Park October 3, and the final race of the season is actually on Halloween (October 31) at Hells Gate State Park near Lewiston. In case anyone is curious, the answer is yes, Dutro did plan the final race to land on Halloween at Hells Gate, so you have plenty of time to work on your race costume.

Photo courtesy of Trail Maniacs

Photo courtesy of Trail Maniacs

Another popular feature regarding the SPS series is the option for a long or short run. “Our five mile races are perfect for runners new to trail running. That’s the nice thing about trail running…if you’re tired, walk for a while. I know I do,” says Dutro

Altogether, this race series serves as a launch pad for some of Dutro’s bigger goals. The primary objective is to use the SPS races to raise funds for the local high school cross country teams. In the future, there’s a bigger goal of helping other high schools start cross country running programs. More than giving back, the ambition for all of the SPS races is to plant seeds for a faster, stronger and better trail running community far into the future.

In order to keep these goals in focus, Dutro keeps right on planning extra events. For those that camp at the SPS races, there’s always a follow-up group run on the nearby trails on the Sunday after the main race. He also signs up and races at other trail runs to show that he’s not just an armchair race director. Even better, Dutro works at Physio One, which happens to be one of the best physical therapy practices in the Inland Northwest, and he’s made a career out of serving local athletes.

Admittedly, Dutro is quick to shun recognition. Instead, he keeps pointing back to the races and the ever-growing camaraderie. “Right now, I would have to say that Trail Maniacs has evolved into a giant family. I​t​’s about so much more than just trail running events,” says Dutro. “I look forward to seeing and meeting all the runners. And now I see on social media how runners are exploring all the great local trails we have in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area.”

Mission accomplished. For more information about the Trail Maniacs and the State Park Series, check them out at Trailmaniacs.com. //