Although racing by foot over the towering peaks separating the towns of Ouray and Telluride may seem like a feat fit only for the masochistic, nearly 1,500 people line-up every year for their chance to tackle this now infamous run – with even more runners wishing they could.
“This year we sold out in only 21 hours,” said race director John Jett. “Internet registrations were through the roof with a sellout on the first day.”
What draws such a large and loyal following? According to Jett, this race’s long history (this is its 37th year) as well as its reputation as being a well-run event on an ultra-challenging course has made it a benchmark for other high altitude trail runs.
The race, held each year on the Saturday after Labor Day, started in 1974 when Camp Bird Mine worker and Ouray resident Rick Trujillo and friends raced from Ouray to Telluride over the Imogene Pass jeep road. From then the race has grown to a sellout crowd of over 1,500.
The race remains mostly unchanged from its humble beginnings, Jett says, except that since 2008, the IPR course has been closed to vehicular traffic during the race. Recent years’ escalating OHV traffic increases prompted the IPR Board of Directors to get permission from the San Miguel and Ouray County Commissioners to close the road over the Pass on race day. The closure will be in effect from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on race day (Saturday, September 11) for Telluride-side access and from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. for access from Ouray.
Jett reports that the race has a return runner rate of over 50 percent, with many athletes who have made the trip in excess of ten times. The race always boasts a strong following of runners from the Four Corners’ states; this year, there are 126 local entries from Telluride, Ouray, Ridgway and Silverton, 93 from the Durango area, 128 from Boulder, 173 from Denver and suburbs and 167 from Flagstaff, Ariz. Runners from 35 U.S. states as well as international runners also attend the annual event, which starts in Ouray and ends at the intersection of N. Oak and Columbia Streets in Telluride.
The finish line will be open until 2:30 PM and there will be an awards presentation in Elks Park at 1:30 PM. Supporting the 1200-plus runners on their trek falls on the shoulders of an army of volunteers. With six aid stations along the course, the start, finish and registration crews, over 200 volunteers are needed. Jett urges interested volunteers to check the IPR website at www.imogenerun.com or call John Jett at 728- 0251 for more information.
The Imogene Pass Run says Alpine Bank’s continued sponsorship of the race allows the IPR generously donate to the high school running programs of Telluride and Ouray, as do numerous other local organizations providing support for the race. Support organizations include Search and Rescue of San Miguel and Ouray County, Montrose Amateur Radio Club, Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club, Sheridan Opera House, Baked in Telluride, Telluride Parks and Recreation and the Twin Peaks Motel in Ouray.