Silver & Gold
The silver anniversary of the Golden Leaf Half Marathon was actually pretty green. The 25th edition of the predominantly single-track run along Government Trail, sponsored by local outfitter the Ute Mountaineer, took place Sunday, Sept. 21. Though some sections of the trail radiated in red and yellow leaves, the majority of the course was not as golden as in years past.More than 450 runners registered to participate in the famed footrace from Snowmass Village to Koch Park in Aspen. “If you live in Colorado and you trail run, there’s no reason not to do this race every fall,” said Drew Hyde of Steamboat Springs. “Every year is unique. I’ve run it in the rain, the snow and on a glorious day like this one.” The assistant high school cross-country coach in Steamboat, Hyde and 10 friends road-tripped to Aspen for the annual event.As racers lined up at the start on Fanny Hill, hot-air balloons suspended in the sky served as a scenic backdrop. With the temperature hovering in the 50s and the sun shining full blast, the conditions were ideal for a fall foliage run.A mountain bike race had been added to the roster for the day before the run. Several runners expressed concern over the bikers’ potential impact, but withdrew their comments after realizing it made no difference in the dry trail conditions.Thad Reichley of Aspen was the first racer to reach the Koch Park finish line, impressively covering 13.1-miles in a mere 1:33:27.Julia Benson won the women’s division in 1:48:25 – her first time running the Golden Leaf.As racers streamed into the park, spectators, friends and family members greeted them with cheers.Racer Tracey Haisfield ran right up to Bubba Eggleston and was presented an engagement ring. Eggleston had actually proposed to Haisfield several days prior during a hike to Crater Lake, but she opted not to wear her rock during the race. “I asked him to bring the box to the park so I’d have something to run to,” she explained.After the race, runners soaked up the rays, swilled complimentary Fiji waters, waited in line for a lunch buffet and reflected on the morning. A pensive Gary Pfaffmann noted he had started out of the gate too fast. “By the time I crested that first hill, I thought to myself I should just go back down and hang out with the hot-air ballooners.” Pfaffmann’s final decision was to continue running with the crowd, however.For 15th-place finisher Steve Gonzales, the Golden Leaf was one of the most difficult races of his life. “That was by far the most mentally and physically brutal race I’ve ever done,” Gonzales proclaimed. “It was a competitive group of runners in the front of the pack.”Aspen’s Barry Mink and Basalt’s Ron Lund were recognized for their endurance over the years, being the only two people to finish every Golden Leaf race since its inception in 1979.”I’m just enjoying my 15 minutes of fame while it lasts,” said Mink.To contact May to send info, insight or invites, e-mail: email@example.com
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