BARSTOW - For runners, by runners.

It's a simple philosophy that has helped the Calico Trail Run grow from a fundraiser into a national race.

The 4th Annual Calico Trail Run starts 7 a.m. on Sunday at Calico Ghost Town in Yermo. Runners can choose to run in either the 30 kilometer or 50 kilometer race.

Runners from as far as Japan and Hawaii and as old as 74 make up the already 215 strong field. Trail run organizers expect about 30 more to sign up before registration closes tonight.

From its beginning as an 89-person race, the run has grown substantially.

"We kind of treat it like a retail business where the customer comes first," said Discovery Trails President Bill Cook. "We do what's best for our runners so they come back each year."
For Vernon Morris, who helped start the race with Jeff Robbins, Rose Beardshear and Cook, that means paying attention to the finer details from safety to food.

The Desert Search and Rescue Squad provides an emergency medical technician at every aid station. Although Morris clearly marks the course, a volunteer will run the trail on a quad out in front of the race leaders to ensure they don't get lost.

The competitive runners may stop at one of the six aid stations for just a moment to grab water or a snack. Others may stop to talk while they munch on anything from bananas to chocolate to salt to a Mountain Dew.

"These are the things they want, so we give it to them," Morris said. "We keep the runners first in mind and then figure out how to make it grow."

What Cook appreciates most isn't the numbers that come; It's the response. Runners complimented them on having one of the most organized races with some of the nicest volunteers.

"You couldn't ask for better volunteers," Cook said. "They are the best. They really enjoy being the volunteers in this race and that's what keeps them coming back."
About 50 volunteers help put on the race.

Morris and Robbins came up with the idea to run a race in the desert 10 years ago. Morris, who assists with the state champion Barstow High School Cross Country team, has run the area around Calico for years. Eventually, he wanted to turn his running playground into an race and approached Cook, Discovery Trails founder and president, about creating a fundraiser.

"I found that area behind Calico," Morris said. "I loved it so much; I ran it all the time. I turned my training into a race."

Discovery Trails is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching the public about the Mojave Desert and how to protect it. Students from schools around Barstow, Victor Valley and Baker can go on field trips to the desert and get after-school lessons through the Desert Trails organization.

Beardshear, volunteer coordinator at the Bureau of Land Management, told Morris he was crazy for the idea in that first year, but went along with it. She became worried in November when there was just three people signed up to race.
However, about 70 signed up by December.

"We were just shocked," Beardshear said. "I was like, `It's really happening. The money is really rolling in.' "

4th Annual Calico Trail Run
30 and 50k Races

What: Pre-race spaghetti dinner (open to everyone)
When: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., tonight
Where: Desert Discovery Center (831 Barstow Road)
Cost: $10 Adults, $5 Children 12 and under

What: 4th Annual Calico Trail Run
When: 7 a.m., Sunday
Where: Calico Ghost Town, Yermo
Cost: $75 (Final registration is
tonight at the spaghetti dinner)

Contact the writer: (760) 256-4124 or