Basalt’s Phebus, Englewood’s McKeever win Golden Leaf Half Marathon
It wouldn’t be the Golden Leaf Half Marathon without unpredictable wet weather and the threat of snowfall. A year after the race was canceled because of a storm the night before, Saturday’s popular trail race from Snowmass Village to Aspen went off without a hitch despite the cold, rainy conditions later in the day.
“I didn’t get rained on, which was nice,” Basalt’s Ryan Phebus said. “It was overcast, so it kept it nice and cool. I’d consider it absolutely perfect for racing.”
Phebus was the first across the line Saturday at Koch Lumber Park, winning the 2017 race with a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes, 51.9 seconds. Golden’s Jordan Jones was second in 1:27:51.3 and Carbondale’s Sean Van Horn third in 1:28:09.2.
In fourth was Carbondale’s Casey Weaver in 1:29:08. Weaver won the race in 2015, the last time it was held, in 1:29:22.4. The Golden Leaf has only been canceled twice in its history, once in 2006 and again in 2016, both due to weather.
Winning the women’s portion of Saturday’s Golden Leaf was Englewood’s Madeline McKeever. She finished with a time of 1:35:36.1. In second was Boulder’s Sara Kadlec (1:47:15.1) and third was Aspen’s Julia Rowland (1:48:50.4).
Among the finishers was Basalt’s Ron Lund, who took 49th overall and won the men’s 60 to 69 age group with a time of 1:57:33.6. Lund, one of the Roaring Fork Valley’s most decorated runners and the current head cross country coach at Basalt High School, has competed in every Golden Leaf Half Marathon in its near four decades of existence.
Unlike the always reliable Lund, this was the first Golden Leaf for Phebus.
“I tend to gravitate toward steeper mountain races, just kind of straight up, straight down,” Phebus said. “This race was a little out of my element. It’s a little bit faster.”
A native of Chicago, the 27-year-old Phebus competed in track and field for Wichita State University before transferring to the University of Utah.
“That’s kind of where I discovered trail mountain running,” Phebus said of the Utah mountains. “That’s where I fell in love with the sport.”
He ended up in the valley about a year ago after his girlfriend, Patricia Franco, landed an internship with the Carbondale-based Trail Runner Magazine.
“The Government Trail is absolutely beautiful and almost the entire course is on there,” Phebus said of the Golden Leaf. “The leaves were pretty much at their peak for changing into fall foliage. So it was spectacular. An amazing course.”
Phebus said he might wander down to Moab, Utah, for the 2017 USA Trail Marathon Championship in November. Otherwise, the Golden Leaf might be it for his season.
“We’ll see,” he said. “Otherwise, I might call it a season and get out in the high country while I still can.”
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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