Rebecca Bramley will spend Father’s Day running. Every step she takes, her late father will be with her.
Bramley, a junior at Fort Lewis College, will run the Mt. Evans Ascent on Sunday in Idaho Springs. It is a 14.5-mile road race that starts at 10,600 feet at Echo Lake and follows the paved road to the summit at 14,264 feet. It is the highest-elevation road race in the United States.
It’s grueling, but Bramley has the pedigree to conquer the challenge. She is the daughter of John Bramley, who in 1977 set the course record for what was formerly known as the Mt. Evans Trophy Run. He finished in 1 hour, 41 minutes, 35 seconds. It stood as the course record for 31 years until legendary mountain runner Matt Carpenter broke that mark in 2008 in 1:37:01.
“I’m looking forward to doing the race, knowing that his footsteps were there,” Rebecca Bramley said. “The fact he did it 40 years ago and held the record. I won’t get a record, but as least I’m doing it, and I know he’ll be there, too.”
The 1977 record was one of several achievements for John Bramley in his illustrious running career. He qualified for the 1976 Olympic Trials and won several marathons across Colorado. At one point, he owned the second-fastest marathon time in U.S. history. He again won the Mt. Evans Trophy Run in 1979.
But, in 2009, John Bramley died from a fall on Long’s Peak, another one of Colorado’s famed Fourteeners. He was 55, and left behind three daughters, Stephanie, Stacey and Rebecca.
Rebecca was 13 at the time. She was never a competitive runner, but always played soccer. After graduating from Arapahoe High School, she decided to attend Fort Lewis College, where she walked onto the new women’s track and field team and also joined the cross country squad as a walk-on.
“I wasn’t much of a runner,” Rebecca said. “My dad was super encouraging of my soccer playing. He was at every game and was very much an influence on my life. When he did pass away, that’s when I got into running. It was therapy for me.”
Rebecca started running trails around Durango when she arrived for college. She fell in love with running and became interested in competition. When she joined the Skyhawks’ running teams, she made her presence felt immediately. She set the program record in the 5-kilomter distance in 2016 at 17:47.8. She was voted the cross country team’s Most Valuable Player in 2016, when she was named to the All-USTFCCA South Central Region team and to the All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Second Team.
She also made the conference’s second team in indoor track and field in 2017 and in cross country in 2015, elite achievements in one of the best running conferences in the nation with powerhouse programs such as Adams State and Western State routinely filling those award lists.
“Becca was always the one cheering the loudest at 6 a.m. practice in the dark for her teammates,” said FLC running coach Joshua Coon. “I have no doubt she could be our first NCAA track qualifier next spring, she’s right there.”
As she became a more accomplished runner, Rebecca learned more of her father’s exploits.
John Bramley was a Colorado native and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. He attended and ran at Colorado State University and grew a following in Fort Collins for his ability to run for countless hours and miles per week.
“I knew he was badass runner, but I didn’t know all the accomplishments he had until I grew older and got into running and understood what it is like to be a runner,” Rebecca said. “The fact he made the Olympic Trials and posted the kind of marathon times he had, I really didn’t know. He was very humble and didn’t talk a lot about it.”
Rebecca’s mother, Karen, would tell her daughters about their father setting out on runs and returning hours later. As it was for Rebecca after her father’s death, running was therapy for John Bramley.
Rebecca’s enthusiasm and smile is infectious to her teammates. She is so energetic, few would know about the adversity she faced at a young age. Coon, however, knows what the rising Skyhawks star has endured. Not only did she lose her father in 2009, but she also was at Littleton’s Arapahoe High School in 2013 when a school shooting claimed the life of a classmate before the 18-year-old gunman shot and killed himself.
“She’s been through some tough spots at a young age, and these experiences seem to have pushed her to not waste a moment,” Coon said. “She’s all in on life.”
Rebecca reached out to the organizers of the Mt. Evans Ascent. When they heard she was interested in running, they did everything possible to accommodate her desire to race this year’s event. She is looking forward to meeting so many of the people her father connected with 40 years ago.
“My goal is to get under three hours or be around three,” she said. “But, honestly, I think the biggest thing for me is to spiritually run with my dad. I know he’ll be there. I want to be there and in the moment and experience what he went through when he did it. Enjoy the views. I have no expectations for myself. I’ll take whatever I get from the experience.”