Macias, Roche win Aspen Backcountry Marathon titles |

Macias, Roche win Aspen Backcountry Marathon titles

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times
A runner heads for the finish line at Rio Grande Park on Saturday morning, completing the annual Aspen Backcountry Marathon.
Austin Colbert / The Aspen Times |

Megan Roche is in a hurry to get back to medical school.

Mario Macias is in a hurry — period.

Macias and Roche won their respective titles Saturday in the new-edition Aspen Backcountry Marathon, a tortuous test that started with a brisk climb up the steep Sunnyside Trail.

The new 26-mile marathon course included 4,100 vertical feet of climbing along with rolling sections through the upper Hunter Creek Valley.

“I go back to med school next Monday. I take all my summers off and race. It’s a nice way to balance it out. Now I’m ready to go back, work crazy hours and run on a treadmill.”Women’s backcountry marathon winner Megan Roche

Macias, a reknowned Colorado road racer, caught David Roche after the final big descent of Smuggler Mountain and then cruised on to the finish at Rio Grande Park, showcasing the raw speed that is a trademark of the former All-American at Adams State University in Alamosa.

He completed the course in 3 hours, 5 minutes and a few inconsequential seconds — a course record, of course, with the new layout.

Megan Roche, who’s scheduled to return to classes at the Stanford Medical School in California on Monday, charged to the women’s title in 3 hours, 41 minutes — another course record.

Her husband David finished a close second behind Macias in the men’s race.

“This is probably the most beautiful course I’ve run in my entire life, and I’ve run a lot,” Megan Roche said. “I’ve run all over Europe and the U.S., and this is a fantastic course.”

The best feature, she said, was how well the course was marked by the race officials.

“It was very well-marked, which I really appreciate as a trail runner,” Roche said. “I’m so thankful it was well-marked. Aspen does a great job putting on races; a fantastic atmosphere.”

She added that the aid stations were well-placed.

Family running vacation

She said she and her husband spend part of each summer training on Colorado trails. They spend time in Boulder and Aspen.

“We love Aspen,” she said, extolling the variety of trail-running options in the area. “There’s a combination … places you can run fast like the rio Grande Trail. Or you can do an epic four-pass loop and run really technical stuff. There’s a lot of diversity here.”

Roche, a former field hockey player at Duke, took up running when she met her future husband David.

“He convinced me it was a fun sport,” said Roche, who ran one year of track in college and then graduate to longer trail runs.

“After my time on the track, I decided it was much more fun to run trails,” she said.

Her racing season finished, she returns today to Northern California.

Pikes Peak

“I go back to med school next Monday. I take all my summers off and race,” she said. “It’s a nice way to balance it out. Now I’m ready to go back, work crazy hours and run on a treadmill.”

Macias, too, is ready to go back — back to racing.

The professional runner who now lives in Colorado Springs will tackle the famed Pikes Peak Marathon next.

“I wanted to do the 50K Power of Four last week,” Macias said. “But a week before I did a 50-miler in Colorado Springs. I decided to give myself a week to recover.”

A top road racer who only recently embarked on full trail runs, Macias is a former winner of the Pikes Peak ascent. Now, he hopes his win in Aspen will help propel him to a top time at the Pikes Peak Marathon.

“I’m a pretty good climber,” Macias said by way of understatement. “But I’m not the best descender.”

His leg speed and turnover, however, were right there for the final finishing half-mile.

A California high school runner, Macias moved to Alamosa to run for Adams State — nabbing a handful of Div. II national championships.

He started his pro running career in Alamosa before relocating to Boulder.

He recently returned to the Colorado Springs area.

“I was always more of a road guy … 5K, 10K, halfs. But the past couple years, I’ve been doing longer stuff,” said Macias, who logs 6-7 marathons a year.

“I was fortunate to have had a lot of great coaches,” he said, “especially at college.”

Those coaching influences helped Macias to a career as a runner.

“Two weeks ago, I decided I’d try these ultras, trail runs in the mountains,” Macias said.

He was rewarded Saturday, he said, with spectacular views from atop Sunnyside.

“Some of the views up high were amazing. The aspens (trees) were beautiful,” said Macias, who was joined briefly on the trail by a fox.

Veteran trail runner Michael Barlow finished third in Saturday’s marathon.

Rickey Gates, who just completed a speed climb and descent of Pyramid Peak, came across the line in fourth place. The former U.S. national cross country champion also has been leading a backcountry running camp this month.


In the rugged half-marathon, which included the tricky descent of the steep and rocky Hunter Creek Trail, was won by Jeff Valliere, a former professional cyclist turned trail runner. He won in 2:08:02.

Kate Bettinger, a Stanford grad working at the Hotel Jerome this summer, won the women’s half in 2:11:14.

A total of 142 registered for the full marathon, sponsored by Aspen Parks and Rec.

The half-marathon featured 125 entrants.

The races are sponsored annual by the Aspen Parks and Recreation Department.

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