A beautiful day for a race

Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, scenery the backdrop for Mountain Madness runs

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— Once a year for the past 23 years, the nondescript electric pole behind the tennis courts on Howelsen Parkway is surrounded by activity. It serves as the starting and finish line for the Mountain Madness Half Marathon and its 10K and fun runs.

"If they ever move that pole, we're in trouble," said John Thrasher, who organized the first race.

About 120 people ran Sunday, split nearly evenly between the half-marathon and 10K runs. The race, which began at 8 a.m., normally attracts closer to 150 people, but race organizer Susie Pace said the numbers fluctuate every year.

"There are a lot of people from out of town because it's a great weekend to be in Steamboat," said Bob Dapper. "You can race in the morning and go to Art in the Park in the afternoon."

The marathon is the oldest race in Steamboat Springs and prides itself with having a beautiful course that displays much of the town's local flavor. Runners start out at Howelsen, go down River Road, through the Dakota Ridge subdivision and back in the 13-mile loop.

"The half-marathon is just beautiful and one you'd want to do," Dapper said. "It's a real simple, fun event. It's not a complicated race."

"It's a nice run; these guys do a good job," said Dean Tenudore, who won his second 10K with a time of 34 minutes, 11 seconds. Tenudore credited his second win the first came in 1997 to luck, although living nearby and running the course frequently didn't seem to hurt.

Along with the scenery, participants were shadowed by hot air balloons that had launched in the morning. Many of the runners thanked organizers on their way out.

Thrasher and several friends decided to create an easy Steamboat course that would allow runners to set personal records. He called the course the easiest in Steamboat but added it was more of a strategic race. Runners can't go out too fast and should plan on picking it up in the middle of the race, before coasting back downhill to the finish, Thrasher said.

"I always tell people that it's certified by Volkswagen," said Thrasher, who used to check the distance on the course by driving it in his Volkswagen.

Christy Sports at Central Park Plaza has been in charge of the race since acquiring Inside Edge Sports, which hosted the early years.

Lisa Adams won the Ladies 10K with a time of 43:51; 15-year-old Davis Miller made a strong showing, finishing fourth overall in the Men's 10K with a time of 39:06.

Eric Dee's time of 1:27:55 was enough to beat Steve Shultz, who came in at 1:31:54 in the Men's Half Marathon. Cheyenne McCann and Emily Conjura came in at 1:44:25 and 1:45:51, respectively, but that wasn't enough to beat Kelly Heaney's time of 1:37:50 in the half.

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