Marathon and half marathon return to Fort Yargo

WINDER -- During the week Tim Schroer is a P.E. teacher at Mill Creek High School. But in his free time he is the brain behind Dirty Spokes Productions, a coordinator of mountain bike and trail running races.

For the seventh year his company is organizing The Thrill in the Hills race at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder. Runners will have the option to tackle either a half or full marathon Saturday.

Even if you're not a seasoned trail runner, Schroer said there is a place in the race for you.

"We do have people at all ends of the spectrum; from beginner trail runners that tackle this course to people that have run tons of trail running races," he said.

Dirty Spokes Productions is hosting the race as a part of the XTERRA Georgia Race Series. The Thrill in the Hills is the sixth and longest race of the series.

Dirty Spokes began in 2005 as a coordinator of mountain bike races and gradually added trail running races to their schedule. They organize (over 30 races in a year) XTERRA series races in Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina, but Schroer said Fort Yargo is one of his favorite courses.

"It has a little bit of everything," he said. "Single track, double track, a little bit of rocks and a little bit of roots just to keep you on your toes. For the most part it's just a fast, flowing, and fun course."

The number of participants is limited to 575 runners who are able to choose to run the 13.1-mile race or the 26.2-mile race.

A portion of the profits from the race will go to the Yargo Area Bike Association to maintain the trails being used at Fort Yargo.

With each passing year, more people are returning and the number of recognizable faces increases for Schroer.

"One of the things I like about this race is how the participants have grown," he said. "We get a ton of participants that come back year after year and this has become tradition for people to run in; so that makes it unique for us."

As an incentive to race in all of the seven series races, the top 15 finishers will receive points that could qualify them for a free entry into the XTERRA National Trail Run Championship in Ogden, Utah in September.

Despite the various levels of competition at Thrill in the Hills, Dirty Spokes has one primary focus.

"We just want to make sure that everyone that comes out there has a great trail running experience, whether it's their first race with us or one of many races they've raced with us," said Schroer. "One of our goals is to always make sure, whether you're first out there or the last one coming in or the middle of the pack, that you have a nice experience."

The 42K marathon will begin at 8 a.m. and the 21K half marathon will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at 210 S. Broad St. in Winder.