Boettcher runs off with win in Mt. Sopris race | AspenTimes.com

Boettcher runs off with win in Mt. Sopris race

Joelle Milholm
Glenwood Springs correspondent

Bernie Boettcher runs down Prince Creek Road during the Mount Sopris Runoff 16.5-mile race Saturday morning. Boettcher came in first, with a time of 1 hour, 49 minutes, 46 seconds. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)

CARBONDALE – “It was Bernie.”

Over and over again those three words were the responses of runners after they crossed the finish line and glanced at the Mount Sopris Runoff results board.

No one was surprised, but everyone was excited – Bernie Boettcher had won another race.

The local running legend zoomed through the 16.5-mile course from Basalt to Carbondale in 1 hour, 49 minutes, 46 seconds. Boettcher grabbed the lead early and never gave it up, beating runner-up Drew Scott by almost five minutes.

“I kind of took the lead right from the beginning, and that is kind of what I wanted to do,” said Boettcher, who has won the race a few times before. “I wanted to see if there was anybody who wanted to go with me, and once I figured out that I was safe, I pushed through the next six miles hard and then backed off a little.”

Boettcher bested the field of just under 60 runners for the title, and it is one he is proud of, especially considering the difficulty of the race. The Runoff ascends 1,500 feet on West Sopris Creek Road and then descends 1,800 feet on Prince Creek Road and Highway 133 before spitting runners out into Sopris Park, the home of Carbondale’s Mountain Fair.

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“This is definitely one of the harder (races) around. First of all for the distance. There aren’t too many long ones like this in the valley,” Boettcher said. “The other thing that is really hard is after you push hard uphill and then push hard downhill, you have a big, long, flat stretch that is on blazing hot pavement. It just roasts ya.”

The Runoff is Boettcher’s 202nd race over the last 202 weeks. It is also his 93rd win during that period. But the beautiful scenery of the Mount Sopris Runoff makes this win a little more special for Boettcher.

“The best part is coming up and seeing the view of Sopris. Sopris Mountain Ranch up there is one of the most idealistic, picturesque places I think I have ever seen, and that makes the race for me,” Boettcher said. “It makes that last mile and a half worth it.”

Mary Cote ran her way to the women’s title, finishing the Runoff in 1:58.20 and taking fourth place overall. Cote, a Basalt resident who has won the race once before, wanted to beat her best time in the event, but came up a little short.

“I was hoping to beat my best time, which was 1:56, so I thought I was running that fast. But then I didn’t even know I wasn’t until the last mile,” Cote said. “It is such a beautiful race. I just love this race. It is one of my favorites.”

Cote, who is training for the New York City Marathon, runs more than 60 miles a week, which probably helped earn her the women’s fastest time. While she said the Runoff isn’t as challenging as a marathon, it does have its rough patches.

“The hardest part is when you get close to the top, the last couple miles going uphill,” Cote said. “Then my legs started burning and you have to try and keep the same pace, but when you get to the top you know it is downhill the whole rest of the way and you just have to adjust and let go and let gravity take you.”

Scott won the men’s 20-29 division, Chris Keleher won the men’s 30-39 division and placed third overall with a 1:57.53 mark. Hank Stone’s time of 2:14.33 put him on top of the men’s 50-59 category.

Megan Kimmel finished first in the women’s 20-29 division with a time of 2:15.13, Candy Underhill won the women’s 30-39 category in 2:13.12 and Katherine Jones took top honors in the 50-59 division with a time of 2:45.23.

Boettcher and Cote won their respective 40- to 49-year-old divisions.

As everyone happily claimed their ribbons and T-shirts for participating in the race, Boettcher shined the biggest smile when he was awarded the Mount Sopris Runoff trophy.

“It’s my favorite trophy of all the races, and I wanted to have it for this year,” Boettcher said of the 18-inch, cast-iron trophy topped by a tennis shoe with wings coming out of it. “It is really cool looking. It’s classic. It’s a perfect Carbondale classic. I love it.”