Spring came earlier
than usual this year for 51-year-old Sharon Kuhn as she began training in preparation for the Collegiate Peaks 50-mile
race in Buena Vista on May 2.
This being her first 50-miler, Kuhn did not know what to expect.
"I ran more training miles than ever
80 miles per week to
the 50-miler," Kuhn said.
The training paid off, with Kuhn shattering the previous
50-59 age-group course record by 45 minutes in a time of 8 hours, 57 minutes, 9 seconds.
Her success at Collegiate Peaks fed the fire for her to sign up for the San Juan
Solstice 50-miler in Lake City.
"I don't think I would ever do anything longer than a 50, but then I never thought I would do a 50, and then I did
another one because the previous one had gone so well," Kuhn said.
The San Juan Solstice 50-miler is one of the most difficult in the country, with elevations between 9,000 and 13,000
feet, icy water crossings and challenging weather conditions with snow and very cold temperatures greeting this year's
Nevertheless, Kuhn finished the race in 12:39.38, first in her age group and the ninth woman overall. These two races
set the stage for her ultimate goal of the season, the age-group course record at the Pikes Peak Marathon.
Pikes Peak is known as "America's Ultimate Challenge," taking runners from 6,300 feet at the start to 14,050 feet at
the turnaround with an average grade of 11 percent - intimidating to many but a challenge to Kuhn, who once again
succeeded in reaching her goal of an age-group course record in a time of 4:59.53. She was the second woman
Much of the Pikes Peak course is run on the Barr Trail, a narrow, winding gravel and rock trail with sharp turns and
abrupt changes in elevation and direction.
Near the summit is the famed 16 Golden Stairs that include loose gravel and broken rock with frequent step-ups of 10-15
inches and 32 switchbacks to the summit.
Kuhn began running in 1984 while attending school to become a physician's assistant. She entered and won her first
race, which got her hooked.
"I ran mostly for my mental health back then, because I
enjoyed it so much," she said.
Kuhn is passionate about trail running.
"I just love trail running so much," she said. "Being in the mountains with the wildflowers, it's so beautiful ... like
being with God in the Garden of Eden."
In addition to the out-of-town races, she entered the Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton and the Animas Mountain Mug Run
in Durango, winning the women's division in both competitive races.
When asked about her key to successful aging in the sport, she said:
"I've always read that to maintain your fitness as you get older, you have to exercise more and eat less. Pretty much,that's what I've been doing, and it seems to be working."
As winter approaches, Kuhn will take three to four months off of running, which, she said, her body likes. She'll spend
the winter months backcountry and Nordic skiing to maintain her conditioning.
I'm certain we will continue to see Kuhn's name at the top of race results for many years to come.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at email@example.com.