Back in the late 1990’s, our local running club Durango Motorless Transit was suffering from a decline in membership, races and volunteers.
As luck would have it, a young enthusiastic runner named Marc Witkes stepped in as president and, over the next several years, turned things around increasing membership from a mere 25 to almost 300.
Marc would continue building and improving on the club for the next six years, leaving in his wake a vibrant and active organization – a testament to his drive, determination and enthusiasm.
In addition to boosting race participation, creating weekly club events and bringing DMT into the 20th century through building a website, the accomplishment that Marc was most passionate about and will be his lasting legacy is the Fort Lewis College Cross Country Scholarship, later renamed the Marc Witkes Memorial Scholarship in his honor.
Marc was a visionary and a tireless crusader for the club and running. He was an amazing and accomplished endurance athlete pushing the limits of what many would consider borderline insanity.
When Marc was in college, he suffered a severe head injury in a car accident which many of his friends and family attribute to actually saving him and changing his life dramatically.
He started doing what he really wanted to do: running races, biking and triathlons, constantly pushing the limit of his abilities. He did everything his way without caring about what others thought about his choices, and he was always cheerful, upbeat and determined.
Personally, my greatest memories of Marc are of the encouragement and enthusiasm he displayed for all levels of athletes. When I came into competitive running rather late in my life, he was always there supporting me and encouraging me to raise the bar higher. He was my training partner, mentor, cheerleader, but most importantly a great friend.
In December of 2006, Marc and I along with other Durango runners headed down to Arizona to compete in the Tucson Marathon. Some of us had trained very hard for many months in hopes of making this race our Boston qualifier.
At the starting line, Marc and I were hanging out and discussing our goals, and he was really excited about the race as he had suffered some injuries earlier in the year and was finally feeling strong again.
Unfortunately for all of us, this was Marc’s final race. He died of heart failure less than a quarter of a mile from the finish line.
Some take comfort in the fact that he died doing what he loved, but we were devastated that this vibrant, loving and optimistic person was taken from us at such a young age.
I still miss Marc all the time when running the trails around Durango, biking the roads or swimming at the recreation center; he still lives vividly in my heart and memory.
Whenever I begin to feel discouraged, I try to remember how positive he always was and draw upon that inner strength to carry me through the low moments.
There are many in Durango who have funny and inspiring stories of Marc and the impact he had on their lives, and I wish I had the space to write about all of those special times.
Ten years is a long time, but it is also fleeting; a realization many of us come to with age. Marc left his legacy to Durango through his scholarship, the many enduring annual races and a thriving running club which will continue to live on long past all of us.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.