Downhill race is seeing uphill trend |

Downhill race is seeing uphill trend

Jon Mitchell
Post Independent Sports Editor

CARBONDALE — Candy Underhill’s creation of a 10-mile race that’s predominantly downhill is something that’s giving a big boost to the constant uphill battle her son faces.

Underhill’s son, 5-year-old Sam, was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a neurologic disorder that combines the symptoms of epilepsy, autism and cerebral palsey, three years ago. She was directed to a doctor with the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (FAST), who told her of the foundation’s efforts to treat and cure the disorder.

Such spawned the idea for the race, which will run for the third year beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday just above the intersection of Dry Park Road and Thompson Creek Road west of Carbondale. And the race itself has spawned thousands of fundraising dollars, which have gone towards finding a cure for the disorder, also known as AS.

“It made perfect sense to do something to spread that hope, not just for my son and family, but for the entire AS/special needs community,” Underhill said. “I decided to host a race to benefit all those that were going to make a difference in Sam’s life and other children like him.

“He’s breaking all the rules. … And through all this, he keeps a very happy demeanor.”
Candy Underhill
Mountain to Valley Race Director on her son, Sam Underhill, who has Angelman Syndrome

“There was no questions who the beneficiaries should be,” she continued.

All total, Underhill estimates the race has raised close to $20,000 for FAST and Mountain Valley Developmental Services in three years. It’s also drawn a strong contingent of local runners along with some regional ones, who this year are coming from as far away as Virginia, Nebraska and North Dakota.

And of course, it annually draws “Smiling Sam,” Underhill’s son, whose disorder can bring on low muscle tone, seizures and, as Underhill puts it, “an incredibly happy demeanor.”

And thanks to some of the treatment Underhill’s son has gone through, he’s been able to keep climbing in his never-ending uphill battle.

“He’s breaking all the rules,” she said. “He’s had to work very hard to reach very small milestones. He took his first steps at age 2 1/2. He’s a wiz on his iPad, though, and we’re hoping to use that iPad for augmentative communication. And through all this, he keeps a very happy demeanor.”

As such, that’s helped name at least one of the three races. Smilin’ Sam’s 1/2-miler, a fun-run event that’s run later in the day, is where Underhill’s son is an annual participant.

Then there’s the 10-miler and 4-miler. The 10-mile race begins at 7,186 feet above sea level and makes a slight incline to 7,228 feet before dropping the rest of the way to the finish line, which is at 5,925. The 4-miler, which begins 15 minutes after the 10-mile race, is at the end of the 10-mile race and features the steepest downhill slope of the course.

“We want people to come out and break records,” Underhill said, jokingly.

Edwin Song owns the men’s 10-mile course record of 51 minutes, 48 seconds. The women’s mark is owned by Mary Cote (1:06:56). A $250 prize will be awarded to a winner who breaks the course record.

Pre-race packet pickup will be 1 to 3 p.m. today in Basalt at Bristlecone Mountain Sports, 781 E. Valley Rd., Basalt (across from Whole Foods Market), and 5 to 7 p.m. in Glenwood Springs at Treadz Shoes, located on 812 Grand Ave. Race-day packet pickups will be at the Glenwood Park basketball courts, where runners will load buses for transportation to starting lines as well as the finish.

Race fees are $45 for the 10-mile race and $25 for the 4-miler. The Smiling Sam run is $5 the day of the race.

More information on the race can be found at, or by calling 970-230-1001.

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