On June 20, the ever-popular Steamworks Animas Valley Half-Marathon returns to Durango.In her second year as race director, Kristin Spiegel has done a stellar job marketing this event, as the race has sold out of the 300 available spots for this year.
Entering its ninth year since being resurrected by Matt Kelly in 2000 after a 10-year hiatus, it will see the largest field of runners in its history.
The race begins near Bakers Bridge, the famous 1969 film location for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," and winds south along East Animas Road (County Road 250) for 13.1 miles, finishing at the Durango Sports Club.
The popularity of this event continues to mushroom each year as more runners discover the beauty of the course and the awesome postrace party of Steamworks burgers and beer around the pool at the Durango Sports Club.
In the early 1980s, the race was run in late September as part of the Fall Color Classic, according to Eric Pierson, a regular participant and Durango Motorless Transit board member during those years. Beautiful long-sleeve cotton fall-themed shirts were given to all the runners then, and the race started right on the bridge, even though the distance measured somewhat longer from there.
According to John McAward, another former board member, "The Narrow Gauge races in May kicked off the DMT running season, and the Animas Valley Half-Marathon marked the culmination of the running season."
Spiegel hesitates to take credit for the increase in participants over the last year, instead citing the route and post-race amenities as the draw. This year she has arranged chip timing at the finish line, and each runner will receive a technical running shirt for their efforts.
"There are over 50 participants registered from Team in Training, a fundraising group for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society," Spiegel said. "They have also started a Durango chapter, and five local members will be running with them this year."
Steamworks Brewing and the Durango Sports Club have been the main co-sponsors of this event for the last nine years.
Other sponsors this year include Your Running Store, Brown's Sport Shoe, Basin Printing, Aiko Aiko Sound, Maria's Bookshop, Southwest Women's Health Associates, Alpine Bank and First National Bank.
Proceeds from the half-marathon benefit the Marc Witkes FLC Memorial Cross Country Scholarship, which is presented annually to a Four Corners cross country runner attending Fort Lewis College. According to Kris Oyler, Steamworks' co-founder, "In 2008, we were able to donate $2,000 to the fund. We hope the increased participation in 2009 will enable us to give even more."
For those who missed the registration cutoff, there is still a need for volunteers on race day. You can be a part of the event and give back to your sport in a fun and satisfying way by volunteering.
Contact Spiegel at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
Next year, plan to register early with this event becoming a premier race in the Four Corners and promisomg to continue to grow as word gets out.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at email@example.com.