Focus goes on families at Aspen running event
The Aspen Times
ASPEN — The Aspen Valley Marathon and Half-Marathon turned into a family affair this year.
The fifth annual Aspen-to-Basalt marathon (and half-marathon) along the Rio Grande Trail on Saturday morning featured mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, cousins and in-laws.
Women’s marathon winner Krista Sidwell of Fort Collins is the proud mother of three — ages 11, 9 and 7.
Men’s marathon winner Matthew Drake, also of Fort Collins, celebrated in the finish area with his mother Martha, who was leading the cheers Saturday morning.
Women’s half-marathon winner Lisa Brunacini of Albuquerque, N.M., finished at Basalt Lions Park just a few minutes ahead of her 14-year-old daughter Lillian.
Men’s half-marathon winner Brad Seng of Boulder leads a veritable family of triathletes that he coaches in Boulder and at the University of Colorado.
“This course is really nice,” said Drake, a 26-year-old chemist originally from Pueblo, now living in Fort Collins. “I got second last year. I liked it, so I came back.”
Drake crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 49 minutes, 57 seconds.
“I’m not in top fitness, but I ran well here last year so I thought I could do the same,” Drake said. “I was within 20 seconds of my time from last year, so I’m happy.”
He described the marathon course as “beautiful.”
But, he said, the last 3 miles he dropped his pace because of the rising heat.
“I was a little worried, but it was OK,” Drake said.
“I worked hard for that,” women’s winner Sidwell said after she posted the top women’s time of 3 hours, 26 minutes.
“Training in Fort Collins, I thought I was prepared for the altitude,” Sidwell said. “But those 2,000 feet make a lot of difference.”
She said she battled the thin air before settling into her marathon pace.
“The course was a little flatter than I expected,” she said.
The 38-year-old, who ran the Boston Marathon in April, said she’s planning to race in two more marathons in 2015.
In the women’s half-marathon Saturday, winner Brunacini raced across the finish line and then raced back up the course to watch daughter Lillian finish the 13.1-mile course.
“Yes, I ran here last year. I was fifth,” said Brunacini, who also serves as a running coach for her daughter and her school teammates.
Brunacini, who said she blossomed late as an athlete, just completed her first Iron Man Triathlon event in Indiana.
“That was my first Iron Man,” said the 45-year-old mother/runner/coach.
The very first runner across the line in Basalt on Saturday morning was men’s half-marathon champion Seng, a 46-year-old triathlon coach from Boulder.
“It was nice and cool out there,” Seng said. “I liked it. This is my first visit to the valley.”
Likewise for men’s marathon second-place finisher Shaun Burke of Durango.
More inclined to run in long trail races, Burke said the downhill nature of Saturday’s marathon course took a toll — on his quads and his feet.
But he was thrilled to finish the race, extending a personal transformation that came through running.
“When I was in college, where I was known for keg stands, I weighed 190 pounds,” said the 5-foot-9 Burke. “I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I started to run.”
He hasn’t stopped. Burke will teach math this fall at Durango High School.
“One thing led to another, and here I am,” said Burke, 28, and 40 pounds lighter.
Third place in the men’s marathon went to Nivardo Javalena Sanchez.
A total of 400 runners registered for Saturday’s marathon; 500 registered for the half-marathon.
Results for Saturday’s marathon and half-marathon will be available on the race website at aspenvalleymarathon.com.
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Colorado Mountain College’s men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished higher than their rankings coming in at the Nov. 14 National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division 1 Cross Country 2020 Championships.