Golden Leaf: Colorful race, colorful history
October 6, 2015
By nature, the Golden Leaf Half-Marathon is a colorful race.
But the 37-year-old trail race from Snowmass Village to Aspen also sports a unique and colorful history.
Take the "Princeton Imposter," for example.
First, the details of the 37th annual half-marathon on the Government Trail, set for Saturday.
The 13.1-mile race will leave Snowmass Village at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
Actually, there will be six starts in waves. Bib numbers were set for waves, based on previous times and estimated finish times.
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Registration closed for the event months ago.
There will be about 450 runners in the 2015 event, which will go up the Snowmass Ski Area and then head toward Aspen via the Government Trail.
The finish is at Koch Lumber Park in downtown Aspen. Runners will reach the finish via the Midland Trail.
The race, sponsored by the Ute Mountaineer and Aspen Parks and Recreation, has been selected as one of "America's 14 Most Scenic Races," by Trail Runner Magazine.
The race's colorful history includes victories by many of the top trail runners over the years, like two-time defending champion Stevie Kremer of Crested Butte. She's actually won the Golden Leaf Half five times, including the last two.
She's recognized as one of the top trail runners in the world.
Evan Macfarlane of Denver won the men's race last year in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 27 seconds. Kremer was fourth overall last year in 1:38:29.
In 2013, Aspen's native son Rickey Gates won the Golden Leaf. He's another decorated professional trail runner and former national cross country champion.
Perhaps the most colorful chapter in Golden Leaf history occurred in 1984, when the then-Golden Leaf Mini-Marathon was won by James Arthur Hogue, also known as the "Princeton Imposter."
He was 25 years old at the time.
He wore running shoes, shorts, a curious sweater vest and a first-generation Sony Walkman.
Hogue beat defending champion Kim Hartman, an accomplished runner from Snowmass Village, by more than 2 minutes.
Hartman had won four of the first six Golden Leaf races.
Finishing third in 1984 was Aspen's Skip Hamilton, one of the top ultrarunners in the United States who was coming off a win in the Leadville 100 earlier that year.
But the boyish-looking Hogue, who would go on to perpetrate running hoaxes at a California high school and at Princeton University, won that 1984 Golden Leaf.
A year later, according to publish reports and a documentary about the imposter, Hogue would be running track and cross country at a high school in Palo Alto — a 26-year-old posing as 16-year-old Jay Mitchell Huntsman, nicknamed Riivk.
His prep hoax continued until California police discovered that the real Jay Mitchell Huntsman had died two days after his birth.
Hogue ended up in Utah, where he was arrested and incarcerated in connection with stolen bicycles and bike equipment.
He served nine months at the Utah State Prison at Draper in 1989.
But his greatest running fraud was yet to come, when Hogue successfully gained entrance to Princeton University under the name Alexi Indris-Santana.
His fradulent personal history was both outrageous and false.
But his extraordinary SAT scores (1400 out of a possible 1600, at the time) and his ability to run gained Hogue entry to Princeton and a spot on the Princeton track team. And he raced two seasons for the Tigers.
Eventually, Hogue was recognized by a Yale runner, who had known Hogue from his high school hoax in California. The Yale runner saw Hogue at a meet in New Haven, Connecticut, and notified authorities.
The next week, Princeton police busted Indris-Santana/Hogue in the middle of a Princeton geology lecture.
He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail, five years probation, 100 hours of community service, and he was ordered to play restitution to Princeton.
Hogue wound up back in Aspen in the summer of 1997.
He was arrested in Aspen and charged with stealing a bicycle and resisting arrest. At the time, he had four prior felony convictions in four different states.
Hogue, in a 1997 jailhouse interview with The Aspen Times, denied that he was the Princeton Imposter and denied that he was a runner.
He served a stint in the Pitkin County Jail and vanished from the area.
Just last month, Hogue was in custody in San Miguel County, pending charges for theft of bicycles and bike parts.
Hogue is not among the preregistered entries for Saturday's Golden Leaf Half-Marathon.
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