I became a fan of The Kevin Whirlwind Horse Memorial Run and Walk the moment I noticed that it didn’t start until 10:30. Most races have this annoying habit of starting at 8am on Saturday mornings. I promptly signed up for this race that would allow me to sleep in.

Except Spearfish is six hours away from Denver and I couldn’t get out of work/the house until six Friday night. Not wanting to drive through unfamiliar mountain roads (okay, they are hills, not mountains, but still) at night I ended up staying the night Lusk, Wyoming. This required me to get up at 6am anyways in order to make it to the race. So much for sleeping in.

I’m glad I did the drive in the morning though because highways 85 and14A from Lusk to Spearfish cut through the coolest part of South Dakota – the Black Hills. It being April, the plains leading up to the hills (which can be rather ugly in the winter) were several shades of green. If I didn’t have a race to get to I could have stopped and stared at deer for awhile as they were out in full force. Once the road crosses into South Dakota the hills proved to be also more green than black, covered with Evergreen trees that reminded me of home (where I grew up in Seattle, not my Las Vegas home. Obviously.) It was also gray and rainy so maybe that contributed to the homey feeling. The Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway was also so gorgeous and remote that I had that startled/blinking-in-confusion feeling when I emerged from the canyon and hit I-90, new housing developments, and the manicured golf courses of Spearfish.

I drove aimlessly around Black Hills State University until I found the telltale sign of a race about to start: A bunch of skinny, unusually dressed people stretching their calves near a cluster of porta-potties. For future reference, this is near W Quincy St and N 3rd St, just east of Black Hills State University’s Ida Henton Park.

I paid my $15, got my T-shirt, pinned on my number, and took off with the small crowd of runners. It was a pretty good out-and-back run. The course mostly followed a paved trail alongside a creek (an offshoot of the Belle Fourche River, I believe), winding through city parks and neighborhoods. 10K and 5K participants start and run the first mile and a half together, which I always like.

After the race I skipped the awards ceremony and the Lakota Omniciye powwow in favor of getting back into my car which had heat. Plus I had more of the Black Hills to explore. I headed east out of Spearfish, looking forward to taking the long way back to Denver.

The Kevin Whirlwind Horse Memorial Run is an annual event sponsored by the Black Hills State University. The following excerpt is from BHSU’s website:

 The Kevin Whirlwind Horse Memorial Run/Walk is sponsored each year on the Saturday of the Lakota Omniciye spring powwow in memory of this young man, a former BHSU student who was killed in a car accident in 1984. Marla Herman, a fellow student and member of Lakota Omniciye, organized the first memorial run in the spring of 1985 and it has been held every year since.