Miguel Perez, Hannah Billings take eighth annual Aspen Valley Marathon crowns | AspenTimes.com

Miguel Perez, Hannah Billings take eighth annual Aspen Valley Marathon crowns

Hannah Billings might be onto something with these marathons. A longtime triathlete, the 21-year-old from St. Louis competed in her first 26.2-mile race June 17 in Estes Park, where she was fourth overall and first among women.

Saturday at Lions Park in Basalt, she made it 2-for-2 by being the first woman across the finish line for the eighth annual Aspen Valley Marathon. The race, which was only given the green light Monday because of the Lake Christine Fire, began in downtown Aspen and finished in Basalt via the Rio Grande Trail.

"It's a huge challenge. It's pretty much the longest you can really race. Just the challenge, really. That's what gets me excited," Billings said of switching to marathons. "I'm super competitive so it definitely pushes me to push myself to my extreme limits. But it's been really, really fun."

Billings, who is studying engineering at the University of Colorado in Boulder, finished Saturday's race with a time of 3 hours, 11 minutes, 59 seconds, which was good for eighth overall. Her time during the Estes Park marathon last month was 3:20:19. Her goal is to compete in the next Boston Marathon.

"I learned a little bit about how to pace a little bit better for this one and how to deal with altitude changes," Billings said of the Estes Park marathon. "The smoke was a little bit tough, but other than that it was perfectly fun."

Kimberly Quinn of Gainesville, Florida, was second among women Saturday, taking 13th overall with a time of 3:20:44. Hawaii's Carly Forte was third among women, finishing 17th overall in 3:23:19.

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New Mexico's Miguel Perez was the overall race winner, coming in with a time of 2:40:35. The Puerto Rico native competes as part of the National Guard's All Guard Marathon Team.

"Fortunately I live at altitude, so the altitude here didn't affect me too much," Perez said. "I have to say it's probably one of the most beautiful marathons in the U.S., if not in the world. It was just amazing. Even though there were not crowds or anything, I mean, the views were unmatched."

Perez, 35, said he has competed in more than 100 marathons, although this was his first in Colorado. He was on active duty for about eight years before moving to Los Alamos and the National Guard only four months ago. He finished about five minutes ahead of Virginia's Kenny Rayner (2:45:12), with Gary Krugger (2:49:10) coming in third. Arizona's Krugger is an Aspen Valley Marathon regular, having won the race in 2012, 2013 and 2016.

"I got into that rhythm. It was a good race," Perez said. "Especially if you are used to altitude, it's a really fast course."

Husband-wife duo takes half marathon titles

They say it's happened before, but probably not since they had their daughter, who is now 3. The husband and wife duo of Kenny and Christie Foster not only won their respective gender divisions in Saturday's Aspen Valley Half Marathon, but finished first and second overall.

"It doesn't always happen like that, so whenever it does it's pretty special," Kenny Foster said. "I can't remember the last time. I think that might be one of the very few times we actually went 1-2. We've won first male and first female before, but it's been a while."

Kenny, 32, won the race in a blistering 1:11:27. Christie, 30, was second in 1:25:35, while Aspen's Thomas MacPherson was third overall in 1:26:26. Women made up three of the top five overall half marathon finishers, with Emmi Aguillard coming in fourth in 1:27:12 and Kate Phillips fifth in 1:27:27. Carbondale's Phillips won the 5-mile Boogie's Buddy Race on the Fourth of July.

Jeff Hembury was the third male finisher, taking sixth overall in 1:27:55.

The Fosters, who live in Monument just outside Colorado Springs, said they usually go to the Mount Sneffels half marathon near Ouray each year, but decided to try something new this summer.

"We were just looking for a new adventure and a new race. We like to come run races in beautiful places. It's a good excuse to travel," Christie Foster said. "We've been in Colorado since 2010 and we've never been out this way. It was amazing to come and run such a beautiful race."

The Fosters met while running for a college in Pennsylvania and moved to Colorado because of Kenny, who is in the military and ended up being stationed at Fort Carson. Kenny said he is training for the 2018 U.S. Marathon Championships in December.

"This was a great effort for that," he said. "Aspen has always been on our bucket list. My wife came across this race and we decided to come out here and do it."

Capping off Saturday's races was the 5-kilometer run, won by Kory Cool of Kansas in 20 minutes, 56 seconds. Cool won last year's full marathon with a course-record time of 2:38:17, about two minutes faster than Perez's time this year.

Anton Idhammar was second (23:26) and Luke Militello third (23:27) in Saturday's 5K. Morgan Jacober was the top female finisher, coming in sixth overall with a time of 26:44.

Complete results can be found at coloradoracetiming.com.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen valley marathon results

Full Marathon

Men

1. Miguel Perez, 2:40:35

2. Kenny Rayner, 2:45:12

3. Gary Krugger, 2:49:10

Women

1. Hannah Billings, 3:11:59

2. Kimberly Quinn, 3:20:44

3. Carly Forte, 3:23:19

Half Marathon

Men

1. Kenny Foster, 1:11:27

2. Thomas MacPherson, 1:26:26

3. Jeff Hembury, 1:27:55

Women

1. Christie Foster, 1:25:35

2. Emmi Aguillard, 1:27:12

3. Kate Phillips, 1:27:27

5K

Men

1. Kory Cool, 20:56

2. Anton Idhammar, 23:26

3. Luke Militello, 23:27

Women

1. Morgan Jacober, 26:44

2. Lisa Speaker, 30:09

3. Lexi Sheets, 30:29

For complete results, visit coloradoracetiming.com.

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