Long distance runners endure mountain pass

by Tori Sheets



Runners in the Imogene Pass Run headed out of Ouray early Saturday morning and traveled 17.1 miles over the mountain pass into Telluride. This year marks the 42nd time runners have participated in the grueling run over Imogene Pass. 

This year the weather was fairly mild compared to previous runs. In past years runners have had to trudge through rain, wind, fog and even snow along the course. Saturday the pass remained sunny and only a little chilly.

Volunteers at six aid stations along the route offered water, sports drinks and support to the runners. The Ouray cross country team bolstered the spirit of the runners by running up the pass before the race began and handing out drinks at the Harris Bridge Aid Station. 

Imogene Pass is a serious run, and participants who hope to cross the finish line have to undergo serious training. One first-time Imogene runner purchased an elevation mask to prepare her lungs for the elevation. 

"I would run anywhere from three to five miles a day, or power hike two to three miles, with the mask on," Ambre Lopez, an Olathe resident, said. "I also would weight train my legs every other day to build strength in my quads, glutes, calves and hamstrings."

Another first time Imogene participant, but seasoned runner, said she took daily runs around Denver to get ready for the challenge.

"I did a mix of tempo runs in the city during the week, then I would go into the foothills and mountains to get elevation runs on the weekends," Morgan Tilton, Denver resident, said. 

Tilton also participated in the Leadville Trail 100 Run in August. The Leadville 100 is a 100 mile run through high elevations and mountainous terrain. 

"This seemed like a really easy race to piggyback with that training," Tilton said. 

Both women said making it to the top of Imogene was a surreal moment.

"It brought tears to my eyes to turn around and look back and know I'd made it," Lopez said. 

For Tilton, the run down from the peak was a reward for all of the strain it took to make it to the top. She said around mile nine up the mountain her pace started to slow, but when she was able to run downhill her spirits were lifted. 

"You're keeping your eyes on the trail because it's really rough and rugged and you don't want to slip on the loose rocks, and so when I finally looked up it was about halfway down and the views were stunning," Tilton said. 

Tilton said all the other runners participating on Saturday were inspiring. She was encouraged by seeing Hilaree O'Neill along the pass for the first six miles. O'Neill is a professional mountaineer and the first woman to climb two 8,000-meter peaks in 24 hours. Tilton also said she was passed by a woman over 60 years old at mile nine. 

"I was incredibly impressed with the athletes that I saw, to me it was like a group of true mountain folk," she said. 

Tilton finished in eighth place in the female 25 to 29 group, and Rose finished 87th in the female 30 to 34 group. 

Runners are separated into male and female categories from age 15 to 74 in increments of four years. All runners over 75 are in one category. 

The overall finisher was Timmy Parr with a total time of 2:15:44.3. Kathy Elmont of Ouray finished first in the female 65-69 category with a total time of 4:18:21.8. 

The top finishers in each category are;

Austin Horn, male 15-19; Katie Lyons, female 15-19; Blake Saylor, male 20-24; Kelly Wolf, female 20-24; Andrew Auer, male 25-29; Kristina Mascarenas, female 25-29; Chris Gomez, male 30-34; Shawna Han, female 30-34; Jordan Jones, male 35-39; Amy Wood, female 35-39; Dewayne Miner, male 40-44; Corie Chandler, female 40-44; Gerald Romero, male 45-49; Sheila Berger, female 45-49; Glenn Steckler, male 50-54; Lori Nelson, female 50-54; Dan Knight, male 55-59; Margaret Montfort, female 55-59; Ron Hendricks, male 60-64; Jeanie Grooms, female 60-64; Bob Evers, male 65-69; Tom Masterson, male 70-74; Emily Irwin, female 70-74; and Nat White, male 75-99. 

White was the oldest competitor in the race, and the only competitor in the 75 and up category.