Aspen Olympian Noah Hoffman wins Backcountry Marathon
1. Noah Hoffman, 3:30:02.18
2. Joshua Eberly, 3:38:15.57
3. Chris Copenhaver, 3:45:06.82
1. Kelsey Persyn, 4:17:52.86
2. Julia Rowland, 4:26:20.76
3. Anna Widdowson, 4:30:38.24
1. James Gregory, 1:57:54.21
2. Rob Kosick, 2:05:05.01
3. Jason Contino, 2:07:00.06
1. Brittany Charboneau, 2:02:50.42
2. Yngvild Kaspersen, 2:11:44.45
3. Lauren Warkentin, 2:27:32.34
His professional skiing career behind him, Noah Hoffman has dialed back the training, only doing enough to take part in “adventures” in between going to classes at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Yet, the natural athleticism that led him to a pair of Olympic Games doesn’t disappear overnight, nor does the knowledge that comes with years of racing at the highest level.
“I had no idea what my fitness was going to be like,” Hoffman said. “Knowing how to race is a huge thing, and I have so much experience racing that absolutely that’s a huge advantage. I was a little nervous at the start, but once I got out there I was, ‘Oh, I’ve done this hundreds of times.’ I know what racing is like.”
Hoffman traded in the snow for the dirt on Saturday, returning to his home to take part in the ninth annual Aspen Backcountry Marathon for the first time. Looking every bit like a professional athlete, Hoffman won the race in 3 hours, 30 minutes, 2.18 seconds, beating Gunnison’s Joshua Eberly by about eight minutes and third-place finisher Chris Copenhaver of Fort Collins by 15 minutes.
Eberly won the Aspen Backcountry Marathon in 2018 and won the Audi Power of Four 50-kilometer trail race only a month ago in Snowmass, so Hoffman’s victory was certainly earned.
“I’ve always wanted to do this race, but it never quite fit into my training schedule when I was an athlete. So this was the summer to come back and do it, finally check it out,” Hoffman said. “I was a little nervous about the distance, for sure. I’ve never raced anywhere near this far. My longest races in skiing were two hours, plus or minus, and this is three and a half. So it’s a big jump.”
While it’s been a while, Hoffman isn’t exactly new to running. As a senior at Aspen High School, he won the Class 3A state cross country championship in 2006 before embarking on a successful cross-country skiing career that included competing in both the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics. Hoffman retired from skiing following the 2017-18 season and the Pyeongchang Games.
“I almost walked away that year before Pyeongchang and I’m so glad I went to one more Olympics and skied that last year,” Hoffman said. “But I really feel I’m at peace with the decision (to retire). I didn’t really miss it that much. I was excited to cheer on my teammates from afar.”
Hoffman will soon head back to Brown for his sophomore year where he is tentatively studying economics and public policy, although he hasn’t officially declared a major. While having a two-time Olympian in class with you might be unique, Hoffman probably stands out more for being a 30-year-old sophomore more than anything.
“It’s a little interesting being in class with 18 year olds,” Hoffman said. “My social life, as you’d imagine, is not centered around my classmates so much. There are other people in the community that are closer to my age. It was not as hard as I anticipated to get back into the groove. Brown did a great job of supporting me and the professors are wonderful. So I’m looking forward to going back this year.”
PERSYN REPEATS AS WOMEN’S CHAMPION
Kelsey Persyn’s first significant win as a trail runner came when she torched the field by more than 40 minutes in the 2018 Aspen Backcountry Marathon. Her margin of victory was a mere nine minutes on Saturday, but it’s still a repeat title for the 23-year-old Texas native.
“I felt a little pressure going into it,” Persyn said of being the defending champ. “This is like my third trail race ever and I love them, so I’m hoping to go down that path eventually and see how far I can go.”
Persyn won the women’s marathon in 4:17:52.86, holding off Aspen’s Julia Rowland (4:26) and Boulder’s Anna Widdowson (4:30) for the title.
A former track and cross country runner at Texas A&M, Persyn has spent the past couple of summers working as a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. Her ties to the Aspen area go back a few years, as she also won the 2016 Aspen Valley Marathon road race.
Persyn said she was using the Aspen Backcountry Marathon as training for the upcoming Grand Traverse trail run, which goes from Crested Butte to Aspen.
“It felt really good. I didn’t have hope that I was going to be the winner until a mile ‘til,” she said. “I made sure my focus was just to focus on yourself and have fun with it. Results are going to come if you just have fun. But it was a different course this year. It was more in reverse, so it was kind of cool to see it from a different angle.”
Also repeating as a champion was James Gregory of Fort Collins, who won Saturday’s half marathon in 1:57:54.21. Only 17, he will be a high school senior this year and finished 16th in the Class 5A state cross country meet last fall.
Denver’s Rob Kosick was second among men in 2:05 and Jason Contino of Manitou Springs was third in 2:07.
Golden’s Brittany Charboneau took the women’s half marathon title in 2:02:50.42, which was good for second overall behind only Gregory. Norway’s Yngvild Kaspersen was second (2:11) among women and Lauren Warkentin of Edwards was third (2:27).
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New hiking and biking trail at Sutey Ranch could ease pressure at main Red Hill trailhead later this summer.