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If you do call yourself a runner, can you handle the truth?
The Steens

Group photograph of an early Steens Rim Run with Spuds McKenzie

"If this isn't Eden, Eden is just around the corner."
- Les AuCoin

The Steens Rim Run

You never know what you might see and hear during The Steens Rim Run! Racers thought that Michael Logsdon on guitar and Cory Eberhart on 12-Bass Accordion, who serenaded them near the top, was just a hallucination one year.

An early Steens Rim Run Award mounted on historic barnwoodThe Steens Rim Run is held on the first Saturday in August. The race sponsor is Harney County Chamber of Commerce in Burns, Oregon . See the Steens Rim Run site for information about this year's race.

(Pictured right: An early Steens Rim Run Award mounted on historic barnwood.)

Altitude is definitely a factor in this race. Extremely changeable weather also has a huge impact on your race experience. In 1999, runners and walkers who were slapping on sunscreen an hour before the gun went off were completely unprepared for white out blizzard conditions three miles up the mountain.

Altitude has an effect on mountain runners

Regan at the start of the Steens Rim Run. Altitude affects every runner differently.

Top of The Steens

East Rim Overlook of The Steens

The Steens race finishes quite close to the top of the mountain. Even when the weather is warm and sunny you can get chilled quickly by the summer wind that blows nearly constantly here. Runners and walkers often add extra layers of clothing as soon as they cross the chalk line.

There is no time to think about how much I hurt; there is only time to run. - Ben Logsdon

2002 Steens Rim Run: 20th Anniversary Running of the Steens

Team 10k Truth at the Alvord Desert Overlook - 2002In the van, heading home on the day after he ran the Steens, 17-year old Ben announces he feels much better today. He bonked pretty hard after his Steens Rim Run effort of 59.54. Vanilla Thunder (aka Manciata) "double clutched" his breathing between miles four and five, two breaths in for every breath out (see this and other definitions in our 10kTruth Runnerspeak dictionary). He crossed the line in 62.32 and placed first in the soft 40-49 division. Regan, who has biked, not run, this summer, finished in 66 something making a respectable joint effort by the 10k Truth Team; although not quite the powerhouse it would have been if the Rage had come along. Next year, Rage?

The night before the race, Team 10kTruth camped on the Steens, down a meadow road below Jackman Park. Other runners camped around the mountain that night, including Team EEB from Iowa. Of that University field trip group, a hardy six signed up to experience 10k Truth as served up Steens Mountain style. Later they told us that they decided to run Steens despite what they'd read about it in the 1999 Race Report on the year of the blizzard.

Team EEB from Iowa at the 2002 Steens Rim RunOne Team EEB member placed in his age group. Another one of their runners looked at the pale, gray ribbon of mountain road disappearing in the distance as he hitched a ride back to the start after the race was over and said with disbelief, "We ran that?" The longest distance he'd ever run before was eight miles, and that was in Missouri! By the end of mile two, he said he could no longer breathe. He walked until he caught his breath then began to run again, one foot in front of the other, not looking up, just listening to the sound of his feet on gravel (which some compare to the grinding crunch of cartilage in damaged knees). He finished in a very respectable 74 minutes over the 10k distance with its 2000 foot elevation gain. Manciata inelegantly says, "Bodies are meant to do shit." Team EEB did some that day.

Race Report: Steens Rim Run 2002 by Ben Logsdon

5:30 AM August 3rd— My eyes snap open. I attribute my early awakening to the soundness of my sleep. The magical pillow I accidentally borrowed from Uncle Bruce aided me greatly in that endeavor, although I heard a string of four letter words from his tent when he discovered that his pillow was missing the night before. Through the translucent fibers of my tent I witness an inspiring pre-dawn sky above the mountain ridge. It runs along the ridge in a mixture of rose and yellow. The fresh mountain air is clear, unlike the suffocating smoke that filled the valleys the previous day. I slip out of my sleeping bag and quickly throw some warm clothes on. I walk towards a tree to empty the quart of water I drank before going to bed. The mountain proclaims a challenge. I ruthlessly accept.

Race Registration Table on Steens Mountain - 2002

On race day, Ben was the first to rise, jazzed for the race ahead. The registration table was set up early, so our runners signed in and we had time for a jaunt up to the Kiger Gorge Lookout.

8:45 AM— We go through registration quickly, luckily my uncle is a great guy, and loans me some money to pay for a t-shirt and registration fee. (I forgot my wallet) Breakfast is a bowl of gruel, and water. Always light and always at least 3 hours before the race. Race time isn't until 10:00, but the walkers kick off at 9:30. There is a certain amount of anger necessary to run this kind of race, and at the moment I am trying to find something to get mad at. Mostly though, I enjoy the view of the glacial valley from Kiger Gorge lookout, about 3 miles into the course.

We drive the red wagon up to the lookout to change and enjoy the view. Normally we go there after the race is over, but we have time to kill. We drive back down to the starting line so that the runners, Uncle Bruce, Uncle Regan, and I, could warm-up and give the support van plenty of time to get to the top. The course is impressive, and this is only amplified by the searing pain in one's lungs while attempting to run up it.

9:30 AM— Only thirty minutes until the race starts. I'm wearing my lucky Palmer cross-country jersey and red Adidas shorts, as well as my Adidas Supernovas (mountain running shoes). I scope out my potential competition, looking for people in my age group who I might be able to take down, or who could take me. At first the field looks pretty small, but by 15 minutes until start time more and more people appear. I feel the excitement coursing through my veins as I jog up and down the road before the start line. The apex of my summer is this little jaunt to the Steens, and I am soaking up every second of it.

9:55 AM— The race starts in five minutes and the runners are lined up. I look around and see the nervous anticipation apparent in some faces, whereas others hold a determined demeanor. I feel a little nervous myself. A million thoughts run through my head. Time slows down for me. I watch the gun held high in the air, and the words, "Runners to your mark," ring out. In the next second I feel the space hanging between my heart beats.

10:00 AM—CRACK! Like a tape in slow motion switched to fast forward, everything shoots forward. Initially I am caught in the tide of runners. As soon as I recover my wits I maneuver around the runner in front of me and break away from the pack, trying to follow behind the leaders by about 15 meters. A voice in the back of my head wonders if I am going out too fast. Probably, but I feel pretty good. I vividly remember the Steens Rim Run from 1999, when I was running in a blizzard in below freezing temperatures. That was the most exhilarating experience of my life. The pain was so great that the pleasure that came from it was equally potent.

10:09 AM— I cross the cattle guard and reach the first mile marker in 9 minutes. I definitely went out a little quick, but not as bad as I thought. The nice thing about Steens is that the grade of the road isn't that steep, it just goes on and on and on. Kong, on the other hand, has a very steep grade, but is only about half as long. The pain starts to set in about halfway through mile two. Running Kong has its advantages. It makes all other runs pathetic in comparison. I just keep thinking about the pain of Kong, and how the pain of Steens is nothing in comparison.

10:19 AM— I can't believe that I'm only 2 miles into the race, and I've already slowed down to 10 minutes a mile. About five people have passed me and I know the initial adrenaline rush wore off long ago. It is definitely time to pick up the pace and try to gain back some lost time. I initially dreamed of breaking 55 minutes, but those delusions were quickly fading into desperate hopes of breaking 60 minutes. There are many different levels of pain. Just as I start to get used to one pain (a searing fire in my side), wondrous new pains develop in my knees, and foot. There is no time to think about how much I hurt; there is only time to run.

10:28 AM— I gain back some lost time in the third mile, and now I am only halfway through the race. I brute force it up a nasty hill to the watering station, where I wet my throat with a plastic cup of water. Water in a 10k is only good for eliminating the dry throat experience, which is even more intense at 8000 feet. The air is noticeably thinner, and I have to intake more air per stride than I would at any normal elevation. The hill after the third mile marker is fairly tough, but most of the hill climbing is over by now.

10:38 AM— Pain, pain, pain! Time to kick it in baby, this is where it counts. Any sucker can run two miles, and some change. I remember how the first time I ran up this mountain I had an epiphany about pain. The pain of the blizzard for the first four miles compared to the clear, cool windy final two miles was like running out of hell into the heavens. I overloaded on pain, and ended up with a strange giddy feeling. And I was really hungry. During this race though, I 'm not that hungry and I am more focused on speeding up for the last two miles so I'd have a chance at breaking 60 minutes. The hill up to the five mile marker is one of those hills where I choose not to look up as to keep myself from being completely demoralized. "Oh God, I'm only half way up this forsaken hill," is what I don't want to be thinking. Once I reach the top of the hill there is a really nice downhill. I start to pick up the pace, and I feel good.

10:47 AM— I reach the five mile marker and breeze by the water station. The last mile and a quarter of the race is uphill, and I push as hard as I can. Pain takes a hold of me, and wrings me dry, killing me little by little. "I hurt...I hurt...I hurt," is all I can think. Where the hell is the 6th mile marker? I really hate the walkers who don't move out of my way, they hog the middle of the road, and even when I pant down their neck they ignore me like they own the whole road.

10:57 AM— I reach the six mile marker, and I can see the last quarter of the race. There is a turn that is about 200 meters from the finish, but reaching the turn is the most painful part of the race. My vision blurs as I round the corner and beat it up to the finish. I keep glancing at my watch, and I realize I am barely going to break 60 minutes. I cross the line at 59:54, and stumble through the finishers' chute. Finally it is over, and I'm standing a mile above the Alvord desert. Uncle Bruce and Uncle Regan finish in the next five minutes. Vanilla Thunder speeds up at the end in fear of being passed by someone. I'm just glad the pain is over.

Ben, "from Palmer, Alaska, not Fairbanks," places third in his age group.

Epilogue: As we drive from Crane Hot Springs in the middle of Armageddon, we realize that the mountain gods frowned upon Vanilla Thunder's first place finish in his "soft" age division, and were now punishing us with a lightning, hail, wind, and rain storm of epic proportions.

Archived Race Report: 1999 Steens Rim Run

Steens Mountain is one of Oregon's most pristine and treasured wilderness areas. While I had lived in Oregon since 1959, I had never been there until I chased Bruce's rented V-10 van in the Dodge Dakota almost clear across the state to get there. I'm glad I opted for the V8 (318), which had no trouble keeping up with "The Big Red Unit" as the rig was named for this particular trip.

The last corner and final climb to the finish  of The Steens Rim Run

Bruce rounds the last turn and heads for the finish line of the Steens Rim Run

I believe Bruce lives on the west side of the "latte curtain" (his metaphor for the Cascade Mountain Range) only for economic reasons. In his heart, he is an east-sider. I felt somehow I had been let into a piece of his life not everyone gets the chance to experience: (1) Playing golf on courses where the word "green" does not appear anywhere on the score card for good reasons; (2) local rules do not allow relief from hay bales and; (3) running a 10k race that STARTS at 7,835 feet elevation.

The Steens Rim Run, as the Coop says, is "one for the runners punch card." While Coop could not make this particular trip, I'll bet he's not far behind me. Runners who finish are rewarded with a spectacular view of the Alvord Desert that is literally 5,000 feet straight down. But, the key is, finishing. The course record is 43:07 by Justin Wadsworth of Bend (1998) and 54:02 by Julie Verte, also of Bend (1997). Sound slow? Come and run it, baby.

Bruce, Regan, Bruce's 14 year old nephew, Ben, and I arrived at the start and our support team took the vehicles to the summit/finish. Today, we would be trading our normal warm up for a "stay warm" in the pickup. It was damn cold outside. It was also Ben's first race. I guarantee, he will never forget it.

Regan and Ben drink water and put on sunscreen before the start

Regan and Ben get ready for the race before the support van heads up the mountain. Little do they realize what's brewing on top of the Steens.

Not too long before the start, the clouds descended and the wind started blowing real hard. None of us were adequately prepared for this kind of weather. All of us had planned on wearing shorts, but that changed in a hurry when it started to snow. I thought August in eastern Oregon, right? It's going to be hot over there. Right?

I didn't think I would ever seriously consider wearing sweats in a race. Regan and Ben did not have any and Bruce kept the conversation short and to the point: long pants. I gave Ben a sweatshirt and an extra pair of gloves I had. It was all I had in the pickup. Regan gave him his hat, leaving him hatless. "No way," I thought. I dug out a poly tank top and he devised a head dress out of it that would keep his head warm. I can honestly say I gave Regan the shirt right off my back.

While all of this was going on, Bruce was also planning on running hatless. I found my son's "Kidsports" baseball hat under the seat and he gladly put it on. He looked at me with his sad puppy face and said, "I love you, man."

It was pretty quiet and not too festive in the 'ol Dodge, as we all looked outside with dread.

The Rage in the shadow of the storm

The Rage with storm clouds above the Steens in August 1999.

We sat with the heater on till the last possible minute before we jogged over to the start. Amazingly, the starters gun got stuck enabling us to get a few more moments of pleasure from the 30 mile an hour head wind that was blasting corn snow into our faces like buckshot. When the gun finally went off, all heads went down and started boring into the wind.

Three hundred yards into this thing, I had one of those ice cream headaches. I got to think everywhere Bruce goes, bad weather follows (Jasper to Banff Relay earlier that year, Civil War Relay, whatever…). I hammered the first mile in just over nine minutes and I worked hard for it. The wind was howling straight into our faces and we were climbing at a rate of about 350 feet per mile. By my estimate, I was now at about 8,100 feet, the air was getting thinner and my back was getting sore from bending down into the wind to keep my eyes from burning. I passed walkers, some with young children who amazingly were not crying, which partially explains why the valley boys can never beat anyone on the east side of the "Latte Curtain," especially when it comes down to a guts race.

It was amazing, but I was working my butt off and was not getting anywhere. My second mile was a blistering 9:15. If guessed right at where 5k might have been, breaking an hour on this puppy was no longer something I was thinking seriously about. The runners got a little relief as the course angled slightly away from the direction of the wind. Actually, by this point, I was not warm, but I was not freezing anymore as long as I kept moving.

Just about halfway through mile5, I saw Ben's family car coming down the course. This was unusual because they don't let cars on the course after the race starts, and now several were on their way down. His obviously concerned mother rolled down the window and said the race had been cancelled. My wife chimed in from the back seat and said there would be no vehicle at the top waiting for us and to abandon the race.

I did not question it and ran around and jumped into the other side and down the hill we went to pick up the other two. When we got to Bruce, he gave me one of those "you weanie, can't you handle a hysterical support crew?" looks, asked where the red van was after they tried the same story to get him in the car and quickly turned his attention back to the race. I jumped out of the car like his wimp lackey and chased him up the same hill I just worked my butt off running up. When I saw Cory waiting at mile 5, I knew it really must have been bad on top. Later, they said it was a virtual whiteout. Amazingly, just as I joined Bruce back in the race, the clouds broke and blue sky appeared. Bruce and I finished in 1:04. Regan and Ben finished shortly thereafter.

Bruce and Mike at the end of the Steens blizzard run

Bruce, Mike and their "blankie" at the finish of the Steens Rim Run 1999

Bruce, Mike, Ben and Regan

Bruce, Mike, Ben and Regan group portrait after the Steens Rim Run 1999

The winner finished in about 48 minutes and was not wearing a shirt.

All I could get out of Bruce the rest of the weekend was some disgusted glances in my direction…muttering something about some doughy handed valley boy needing a ride during 10k.

Manciata on the last half mile of the Steens Rim Run.
(Photo Credit: Photos by Ruthie, Burns, Oregon)

Steens Rim Run Race Details - Registration Details at

Saturday August 1, 2009 at 9:30 am is the date and time of the 27th Annual Steens Rim Run and Walk. The race starts on the Steens Mountain Loop Road near Jackman Park and finishes at the East Rim Overlook. The 10k course follows the east rim of the Steens Mountain, passing the head waters of both Fish Creek and the Little Blitzen.

As you run along the rim's edge a number of high mountain views will make the run a memorable experience. A short rock throw to the east is the Alvord Desert 5,000 feet below the ragged east rim.

The race offers a tremendous challenge starting at an elevation of 7,835 feet and finishing above 9,700 feet. The course has fairly good gravel surface but the last two miles are somewhat rocky. Any vehicle wanting to be at the finish line needs to be there before the walk starts. The road will be closed for the races.

Time: 10k Walk will begin at 9:30 a.m. - Saturday, August 6

10k Run will begin at 10:00 a.m. - Saturday, August 6

Dressing and Clothing

Please come dressed and ready to run. There are no showers available in the race area. The weather is unpredictable so come prepared for very warm or very cool conditions. Many times a cool breeze is blowing at that elevation; there is even a possibility of snow this time of year.


Awards will be presented at the Starting Line as soon as possible after the race.

In the past, the overall men's and women's winners received a beautiful book titled Steens Mountain in Oregon's High Desert Country, with nature photography by Charles Conkling and text by John Scharff and E.R. Jackman, a true collector's item. Age group winners received plaques. In addition other prizes have been given.

Preregistration is encouraged.

Runners can walk but walkers can't run.

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Date and time page last updated: 03/14/2013 4:54 PM