Truckee/Tahoe athletes form Donner Party Mountain Runners club

Sylas Wright
Pete Broomhall, Mike Tebbutt and Peter Fain (l to r), all original members of the Donner Party Mountain Runners, take a break above Lake Tahoe east of Brockway Summit on a Jan. 26 run. The new running club is seeking additional members.
Courtesy photo |

Peter Fain’s first crack at starting a running club in the North Tahoe/Truckee area, back in 1999, “failed miserably,” he conceded.

A second attempt some 15 years later has been anything but a failure.

“We started putting our feelers out to see if there was interest in a running club, and there seemed to be quite a bit. And now we have almost 40 members,” said Fain, one of the founding members of the newly formed Donner Party Mountain Runners, along with Mike Tebbutt, Helen Pelster and Pete Broomhall.

“The goal for the first year was 75 (members), but I think we’re going to re-evaluate and shoot for a higher number. I think there could be more than 100 people who are interested in getting involved. We already have more than 400 people on our Facebook page.”

Tebbutt spawned the idea this past November.

The competitive Truckee distance runner was intrigued by news of the inaugural Tahoe 200 Ultra — a 200-mile, single-loop foot race around Lake Tahoe. Upon some research, he learned that race director Candice Burt was willing to waive the $850 entry fee for anyone who agreed to organize and run an aid station.

“I couldn’t pass up on that, so I volunteered to organize an aid station. But I knew I’d need some help,” Tebbutt said. “So I was out running with Pete Broomhall one day and I threw it out there to start a little club. I didn’t know how many people would be into it or that it would become so official.”

About 20 local runners met at Pelster’s house to discus the possibility of forming a club. They selected a board of directors — Fain as president, Broomhall as vice president, Tebbutt as treasurer and Pelster as secretary. Jenelle Potvin, Sam Skrocke and Chris Cloyd have since joined the board, while Fain said they hope to add more club officers in the future.

“It’s been really cool. It’s amazing how quickly this whole thing has come together,” Tebbutt said, adding that, in addition to Truckee/Tahoe residents, runners from the Bay Area and Reno have expressed interest.

The club settled on the name Donner Party Mountain Runners. By April 21 it had its own website,

“We reached out to the Road Runners Club of America and got an insurance policy and managed to piggyback off of them,” Fain said. “Helen pretty much spearheaded all the logistic work, getting the paperwork together and the website up and running. Now we’re an official nonprofit organization.”

Fain said the club’s goals include educating the public about running and providing opportunities for group runs. “We want to be trail stewards to the area and be involved in the community from a social group perspective. And we’d love to someday provide youth scholarships if we raise enough money,” he said, explaining that funds will come from membership dues and one signature race a year.

The club already is hosting weekly trail runs, with Pelster leading runs of 3 to 5 miles for novices or those who are unfamiliar with the area, and Fain or Broomhall leading more advanced runs on Thursday mornings. So far they’ve stuck to trails that are melted out, mainly the Emigrant Trail, Martis Creek or Waddle Ranch. “We’ll offer more as more trails open up,” Fain said.

The Donner Party Mountain Runners will host a membership launch barbecue at the historic Donner Camp site on Highway 89 near Alder Creek on May 26. The party will include a couple of runs in addition to lunch and a raffle.

“I think the group runs and just being involved will make everybody a better runner,” Fain said. “This year alone, I’m seeing my running improving by running with people, which I never do. I’m always by myself. So it’s been a lot of fun.”

Tebbutt to tackle Tahoe 200 Ultra

With his idea to organize an aid station, Tebbutt committed himself to competing in the first-ever 200-mile, single-loop mountain trail running race in the United States.

“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” he said. “Daunting is definitely a good word to describe it. But I’m just going to try to stay injury-free and be smart about my training. I’m super excited for it.”

The Tahoe 200, scheduled for Sept. 5, 2014, will begin and end at Homewood Mountain Resort on Tahoe’s West Shore. The route follows the Tahoe Rim Trail with the exception of two detours to avoid the Desolation and Mount Rose wilderness areas.

The course features 39,800 feet of ascent and 39,800 feet of descent, with 13 aid stations and five sleep stations. It is not a stage race, meaning runners will be timed from start to finish. Cutoff is 100 hours, or four days and four hours after the start.

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