How One Trail Runner Transitioned from the Mountains to the Flatlands

No peaks? No problem.

Trail Run Project member Chris Rozoff lives in Wisconsin now, but he got his start running in the mountains of Colorado. After exploring the pavement, Chris ventured off-road and found a thriving and expanding trail running community in his new hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.

TS: How long have you been running?

CR: For many years, but I got serious about long distances over the past five. I used to live in Fort Collins, CO, and that’s where I really picked it up.

TS: Was it hard to move to Wisconsin after running in the foothills and Rocky Mountains?

CR: When I moved to Wisconsin, I was, for a lack of a better word, a bit depressed about the situation. The weather isn’t as nice as it is in Colorado, and it’s relatively flat. Nonetheless, I decided to take up long-distance road running and loved that. Then, I discovered a ton of great trails around here, including the Ice Age Trail, and picked up my love for trail running. Now, I’ve started doing some ultras.

The Verona segment of the Ice Age Trail cuts through the southwest side of Madison. Photo: Chris Rozoff

TS: What attracts you to trail running?

CR: I like running a lot and part of my initial excuse to get on trails was to not get run over by a car. For me, it’s also become about getting out in nature, which is addicting itself, and it’s just fun to relax the mind and meditate while getting in shape. I love the adventure of technical trails and the challenges that come with different weather conditions.

TS: How do you compare trail running in Fort Collins to Wisconsin?

CR: Out in Colorado, you can put in a hard day’s work with one big climb before you summit. You’re usually pretty happy with that and then on the way back, it’s all downhill and a breeze. But here in Wisconsin, it’s a lot of rolling ups and downs. There’s also solitude on our trails, compared to some of the busier ones on the Front Range. Overall, both places have their strengths and weaknesses. However, I would take Colorado’s high altitude over our humidity any day.

TS: Any favorite runs?

CR: In the Madison area and upper Midwest, I love Devil’s Lake and some of the lesser-known segments of the Ice Age Trail. Also, pretty much anything around Lake Superior.

Devil’s Lake at sunrise | Photo: Chris Rozoff

TS: How about the trail running community in Madison?

CR: I started this trail running club, Madison Trail Runners, which is the main reason I use Trail Run Project. There are a lot of great runners around here, and the club is a good way to pick up a run with somebody. Overall, the local trail running community is very down-to-earth. There are also a lot of elite runners out here—and some who come from the area. Maybe it’s because of the Midwestern work ethic. The majority of people are also still road runners, but the trail running community is exploding.

TS: Why?

CR: First of all, there are a lot of great trails and we’re an active community. And the resources are there to get out on the trails. There are a lot of trail races and shorter ones that aren’t ultras.

TS: How did you start Madison Trail Runners?

CR: I was reading Trail Runner magazine and they were talking about trail running clubs across the nation. I wondered what Madison had to offer but had trouble finding a major trail running club in the area. And I thought I’d try starting this. I thought it was probably stupid since I wasn’t an elite runner—just a regular amateur trail runner—but it worked out. Maybe the courage came from being an early member during the founding days of the Blue Sky Trail Running Club in Fort Collins. is how I started the momentum. Facebook and Meetup continue to be resources that help keep the club going.

TS: Last question: Do you have a bucket list?

CR: No, just to enjoy running through life.