By Jamil Coury
Heading over to Memorial Park on race morning of this year’s Silverton Alpine Marathon & 50K on Saturday morning, Aug. 24, I was hit with a few drops of rain. The skies were cloudy and dark in the pre-dawn hours leaving me wondering what the runners would be in for during the race.
As darkness gave way to light as runners checked in and prepped for the day's event, the skies looked ominous, but were holding out. Nineteen 50K runners took off at 7 a.m. for the short out-and-back on the last part of the course. The first runner, Dennis Pollow Jr. was back through the start/finish line in Memorial Park at 7:32 and was off to complete the marathon course.
Marathon runners took off at 8 a.m., set to chase down the 50K runners who had all made it back through Memorial Park by the time they started. The course follows the Alpine Loop jeep trails in the San Juan backcountry through the old mining towns of Howardsville, Eureka, Animas Forks and Gladstone. En route, runners climb over the 12,960 foot California Pass at mile 16 and the 12,730-foot Hurricane Pass at mile 17. One of the unique parts of the race is the marathon and 50K times are typically about an hour apart, meaning it is truly a race to see whether a marathoner or 50Ker will finish first!
Runners were treated to aid stations spaced four miles apart on the course staffed by experienced and enthusiastic volunteers, runners themselves.
Leah Fein from Durango who has previously won the 50K has staffed the Animas Forks aid station the past two years and even went for a run to the top of California Pass before her shift started! Dan Novak of Ouray has been helping at most of the Kendall Mountain Runs for the past 15 years and also the Silverton Alpine events for the past 4-5 years.
Heading down from Hurricane Pass, our lead marathon runner and now Silverton local Andy Wellman passed the lead 50K runner and went on to win in a time of 3:39:36, a great time on this tough course!
He was followed up by Marco Zuniga of Durango who finished in 3:55:52. He recently placed high at the Pikes Peak Marathon and was contemplating whether or not to run almost up to race start.
Our first female marathon runner was Keri Nelson of Gunnison who won in a time of 4:44:35. Keri holds the course record at the Kendall Mountain "K2" Double. Elizabeth Davis was not too far behind, finishing second in 4:57:52.
There was no stopping Leila Degrave of Leadville who ran a very strong 50K to set a new course record in 5:04:23, placing second overall. She handily beat out the lead female marathon runners.
There were a total of 19 finishers in the 50K, our ultimate finisher being Hurricane Carter of Crested Butte in 8:13:32. The marathon saw a total of 28 finishers and everyone enjoyed a great post run barbecue in Memorial Park.
Thanks to Julie Danjou and Blaze Braford-Lefebvre for helping at the barbecue, Montanya for donating a free Coor’s beer to all finishers, Ken Webb of Quiet Bear Art for the race awards, Megan Kimmell for holding packet pickup at Mobius and Rodger Wrublik for the equipment used at the finish line and aid stations.
The clouds built up around the course most of the day, but it didn’t rain until the last 30 minutes of the race when we only had two runners left out on the course.
Thank you to all of the runners and volunteers for making this summer’s Silverton Alpine Running events a fun recreational opportunity for the town. We’ll be back next year. Until then, Run Steep and Get High!
Jamil Coury is director of the Silverton Alpine Marathon and 50K.