Irwin smashes age group record at Imogene Pass Run

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016 1:54 PM

September 10th marked the 43rd annual Imogene Pass Run, a popular 17-mile mountain race that takes runners from Ouray to Telluride and includes more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain.

Many Durango locals include Imogene on their must-do list of races, and it is considered to be one of the more challenging mountain runs because of the altitude, terrain and extremely unpredictable weather.

This year, runners were greeted with beautiful blue bird skies and pleasantly warm temperatures allowing spectacular views of the surrounding peaks as they ascended 13,114 foot Imogene Pass.

Emily Irwin, 70, completed her 14th Imogene Pass Run this year comfortably winning her age group and decimating the previous course record in her category by more than 25 minutes, proving once again that age is not a limitation.

“I felt very good this year. I was very, very happy, except for my fall” Irwin said referring to a tumble she took on the descent into Telluride.

ower hiking at high altitude is Irwin’s preferred training for this event, and she had plenty of practice this summer as she spent seven weeks through-hiking the Colorado Trail.

“I power hike the uphills, and I run the level sections and the downhills,” she said. “Being at altitude and hiking an average of 10 miles per day on the Colorado Trail really helped; the altitude never bothered me.”

he downhill portion of the race proved somewhat treacherous for Irwin and many others who were beaten up and bloody coming across the finish, a testament to the rough terrain of the steep seven mile descent into Telluride.

Hank Blum was one such victim of an errant rock that sent him tumbling down a hillside.

“My palm was pretty mangled, and my knee was dripping blood,” said Blum, “but I got up and continued running with my adrenaline pumping. I was suddenly hyper focused with each step to the finish line.”

His injuries were minor as were most that day, a reminder that trail running is a lot like life. According to Blum, “it is all about being challenged and going through adversity and getting back up.”

For 58-year-old Gail Harriss, this was her 11th Imogene Pass Run and definitely won’t be her last. Her summer of through-hiking the Colorado Trail with Irwin made her stronger, and although, she felt pretty good during the race, she admits that she may have been more fatigued than in previous years.

“The Imogene Pass Run I did in 2014 I really liked because it was my best time and I felt really strong,” she said. “Two weeks before that race I had done a 10-day backpack in the Weminuche on the Continental Divide Trail, and I think being up at elevation helped tremendously. The timing was perfect.”

Training at altitude, power hiking steep sections and practicing downhill running on difficult terrain were successful strategies implemented by many of the competitors who felt good about the outcome of their race this year.

Once again, Durango was well represented with around 180 locals toeing the start line and many placing in their age groups including; Brendan Trimboli, Scott Archer, Chris Wherry, Sean Meissner, Sheila Berger and Irwin.

Reach Marjorie Brinton at