OURAY COUNTY: Sneffels Marathon attracts renowned runners this year
By Sheridan Block
At least 700 runners from across the country will take their marks in Ouray on Saturday morning, testing their speed and endurance during the annual Mt. Sneffels full and half marathons.
Hosted by the Mt. Sneffels Education Foundation, this year marks the 14th annual half marathon and the fourth annual full marathon.
According to co-director Glynn Williams, as of last week 485 runners have registered for the half and 105 for the full, with more than 25 states being represented. He noted that it will be difficult to predict exactly how many people will participate, as individuals can still sign up for the race until Friday night for the full marathon and Saturday morning for the half.
Among the hundreds, two top athletes will compete in this year's race, including Olympian Janet Cherobon-Bawcom and Boston Marathon top finisher Jeffrey Eggleston.
Cherobon-Bawcom was on the U.S. Olympic team during the 2012 games in London. She placed 12th in the 10,000 meter run with a time of 31:12.68. She is the current U.S. 25-kilometer and 10-mile record holder and boasts a half marathon personal record of 1:09.55.
"I've actually run more of the half-marathon course before when visiting family in Silverton and I'd love to come up (to Ouray) and take a shot at the course record," she said.
"This woman is the most accomplished runner our race has seen. I am thrilled she is coming," said race co-director and former MSEF president John Ferguson.
Williams agreed that Cherobon-Bawcom is the best female athlete the race has seen so far and is probably the first Olympic runner at the event.
Also competing this year is Jeffrey Eggleston, eighth place finisher in the 2014 Boston Marathon. He and Cherobon-Bawcom will go foot-to-foot with course record holder Mario Macais and two-time returning champion Christie Foster.
Both the half and full marathon are USA Track and Field certified courses, distinguished by the county's unique geography and beautiful scenery. Williams said that he is often told the event is "one of the most beautiful courses in Colorado to run."
"I can attest that the Mt. Sneffels race course is amongst the most beautiful of any marathon in the world," said Ferguson, who has traveled around the world and participated in a number of races on every continent.
The half marathon course will begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday on Main Street in Ouray, immediately adjacent to the Visitor's Center by the Hot Springs Pool. The first mile will take racers uphill to 3rd Avenue, where they will make a return to Fellin Park before making their way toward Oak Street to County Road 17. Runners will continue north on CR 17 to CR 23 along the Uncompahgre River Valley and end at the soccer fields in Ridgway. The full marathon will begin at 6:30 a.m. at the soccer fields, making the journey to and from Ouray along the same scenic path.
Full marathon runners will get an elevation gain of 800 feet up and loss of 800 feet down over the 26.2 miles while half marathoners will run a loss of 800 feet over 13.1 miles.
Water, Gatorade, snacks and restrooms will be available throughout the course for runners. An awards presentation for prize money and overall winners for both races will be held on the stage at Ridgway Town Park beginning at 2 p.m.
While the course remains the same over the years, one new addition to this year's event is a free screening of the film "Spirit of the Marathon II" which will play at the Wright Opera House on Friday at 7 p.m. Julie Weiss, also known as the "Marathon Goddess," is featured and will introduce the film. Beer and wine will be available for purchase and proceeds will go toward MSEF.
MSEF is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities for youth in Ouray County. The organization aims to involve the community in developing resources to enrich students' lives and broaden their educational experiences. In 2013 and 2014, 39 projects were funded for a total of approximately $65,000 through the organization's fundraising efforts, including the full and half marathons.
Williams, who has been a board member of MSEF for nine years, mentioned that the Mt. Sneffels marathons may be the single largest contributor to the organization's fund.
For more information about MSEF visit www.mtsneffels.org and for information about the races visit www.mtsneffelsmarathon.com.