"We really lucked out with the weather this year, going from the very worst weather the day before to one of the best race-day conditions we've ever had," said Race Director John Jett, who admitted that the sun-infused conditions made for "absolutely the best weather" he's seen in his five years assisting with the Imogene Pass Run.
The fine day also perhaps paved the way for at least one record to be broken, as last year's winner Bernie Boettcher, of Silt, Colo., beat his previous year's time with a 2:22:48 finish, breaking a 15-year record for his men's 40-44 age class. The second person to cross Telluride's Oak Street finish line was Boulder's Galen Burrell, who was just one minute behind Boettcher at the summit but couldn't catch the leader on the brutal, six-mile downhill. Burrell still finished with an impressive time of 2:26:06. Fort Collins's Zach Crandall took third place overall, with a finish time of 2:27:50.
The first local runner to set foot in Telluride was Chris Howe, whose 2:41:43 finish garnered him second place in his men's 25-29 age division and a top-ten finish at eighth place overall. Fellow Telluride strong man Paul Reich also broke into top-ten status, finishing just behind Howe to take ninth overall and first place for his men's 45-49 age division with a time of 2:41:59.
On the women's side, the top two Telluride finishers came as no surprise to race spectators as local super-runners Kari Distefano and Marla Croke took third and fifth place, respectively, in the women's division. The first woman to cross the finish line was Lisa Goldsmith, from Nederland, Colo., who took the overall gold with a time of 2:50:33, just ahead of the women's second place finisher Brianne Lippoldt from Durango. Distefano won the Master Women division with her 2:55:11 time, while Croke took first in her 40-44 age group by crossing the finish line at 2:57:10.
A handful of other Telluride runners accomplished the impressive feat of breaking into the top ten percent of this highly competitive event, which draws runners from throughout the country and world. Race organizers estimate that of the 1,570 people that registered, 1,150 started the race; and more than a dozen local runners were among the first 100 racers to cross the finish line.
Town doc Kent Gaylord placed 26th overall with his impressive 2:52:59 finish, just ahead of Tom Treder who was the 38th runner to finish (2:56:55). Glenn Steckler also managed to break the three-hour mark, coming in 42nd overall (2:57:35), while local runners Jeff Koenig, Stephen Barrett and Peter Mueller all finished in just over three hours.
Ophir's Mark Campbell also broke into the top 100 (3:10:54), as did locals Lydia Gould and Elizabeth Heerwagen, (3:12:30 and 3:12:52) who were awarded with silver medals in their respective 20-24 and 25-29 age divisions. Gould and Heerwagen finished as the twelfth and thirteenth among the women.
Other local ladies Joanna Brown and Eileen Cahalane ran solid races (3:26:10 and 3:26:43), earn them both fifth place finaished in their respective 40-44 and 35-39 age divisions. Lara Price was the 52nd woman of a field of just over 500 who finished, taking seventh place in her age category of 30-34. Finishing at 3:41:28 was local Liz Hatzenbuehler, who took fourth place in her 20-24 age category, just behind Corie Chandler (3:40:10) who landed in the top ten for her 30-34 age division.
Kristine Hilbert, Lisa Andrews, Kate Christiaanse and Dana Marks, all of Telluride, also managed top 100 finishes among women, with finish times at around 3 hours, 45 minutes.
Rhoda Green was the first woman to finish the race in her 65-69 age group, allowing a gold medal for this avid local runner.
Another local running enthusiast, Jerry Greene, completed the very impressive feat of running his 25th Imogene Pass Run. Though he may have been one of the few to actually grumble about the weather ("It wasn't very exciting – what's the Imogene without it snowing and blowing?"), he did admit being pleased with his finish, especially considering he was coming off an earlier summer injury.
Greene says the main thing that keeps him coming back for more lung-wrenching, heart-pounding and muscle-straining toil year after year is, above all, "stubbornness." He says: "I don't think I'll quit anytime soon, as long as I remain healthy and injury-free."
On the other end of the spectrum was visiting Phoenix runner George Elder, who at 67 years old was running the Imogene for the first time. Though Elder did not accomplish any huge feats against the race clock, finishing in over six hours, this runner epitomized what the Imogene Pass Run is to many of its participants – a lofty achievement in and of itself.
Three of Elder's children and six of his nine grandchildren waited throughout the afternoon at the Oak Street finish line to cheer on this first-time IPR participant when he finally made it to Telluride. Surprising their grandfather, the grandchildren sported T-shirts reading "We are proud of you Grandpa!"
"I had a card in my backpack the whole time that was signed by all nine of my grandchildren," said Elder. "I couldn't not finish knowing they were all rooting for me!"
Race day for next year is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10. Registration for the always-popular race begins on June 1.