CARBONDALE — Casey Weaver thought, at first, the time he was given to beat in the 36th annual Mt. Sopris Runoff 14-mile run would be a difficult task. It turns out the 24-year-old Roaring Fork High School graduate was good enough to set a new standard on Saturday.
Weaver shattered the previous best mark in the race by more than three minutes, finishing the race in 1 hour, 25 minutes, 23 seconds to easily win the event, which ends among the Mountain Fair tents at Sopris Park.
“It sounded really fast when he told me, too,” said Weaver, speaking of race director Brion After’s plug to set the course record.
Weaver continued: “I think I beat it by less than a minute. At one point, I didn’t think I was going to get it.”
It turns out there really wasn’t a whole lot for Weaver to worry about, after all. His record time not only beat the previous-best mark of 1:28.47 set by Silt’s Bernie Boettcher in 2010, but he also joined Boettcher as the only other person to run a time less than 1:31:00 since After took over directing the race in 2010.
That’s saying something, especially since the road course climbs 1,800 vertical feet over the first half of the race before making its descent into Carbondale. But Weaver, who last month set the course record in an Aspen Backcountry Marathon race that climbs 4,000 vertical feet, wasn’t fazed one bit.
“I kind of hit a wall with four miles to go,” Weaver said, smiling. “I didn’t think that I’d be able to get it, but then I looked at my watch with about two miles to go and knew I still had a chance.”
Another former Garfield County prep standout, Abbey Walters, claimed the title as the 14-miler’s fastest female. The 2005 Glenwood Springs High graduate, who twice qualified for the Class 4A cross country and track and field state championships, finished the race in 1:51.11.
“Really, I was just trying to beat my time from when I ran the race back in 2011, and I did,” said the 27-year-old Walters, who topped her previous-best time of 1:53:30.
“That was my goal,’ she quipped. “Older and faster!”
Then again, winning the much-shorter and almost-all-downhill 4-mile fair run was a much harder, longer process for Carbondale resident Aldo Valera.
Valera, 34, hung out in the back of the pack of 51 runners before taking the lead for good in the final 1 1/2 miles, winning in 25:26. It was the first competitive race victory for Valera, who has been a active participant in the Colorado River Valley Charity Race Series and has finished as high as second and third place. But never first place.
The unique thing about Valera, however, is that he didn’t begin running until two years ago. He did it to lose weight, and he said he’s slimmed down from weighing more than 200 pounds to his current weight of around 160.
“All of the weight loss led to this,” Valera said.
The fastest female in the fair run was Heather Hall of Snowmass, who managed a third-place overall finish in 26:04. The 34-year-old Hall, who said she’s run nine marathons, said her decision to run in Saturday morning’s race was kind of random.
“Oh, Ben [Carlson, who works with her at Snowmass ski resort and finished seventh in the race] wanted to do it. That’s all,” she said. “I just thought it sounded like fun. I didn’t expect to get a third place out of it though.”