Off and running

22nd annual Steamboat Marathon is Sunday

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— Andy Picking used to think running was dumb.

A hockey player in nature, physique and probably attitude, Picking started running more as a stress reliever than anything else after he started Mountain Dream Developers LLC several years ago.

Sunday, he will run his third Steamboat Marathon and his second marathon in less than two months following his completion of the Boston Marathon on April 21.

Up next is a 50-mile race in the not so distant future, as Picking starts moving toward his goal of being an ultra marathoner.

He still calls himself a hockey player that runs, but it isn't easy to find hockey players willing to enter a 26-mile race in the off season.

Picking's wife of four years, Lynn, said her husband enjoys pushing his limits in everything he does, even if she is left to sometimes wonder what he's doing to himself.

They disagree to a point on his frequency of runs, but she remains his biggest fan and the first to his side after he finishes.

Except in Boston. Boston was another experience altogether. Lynn misjudged a bit on how long it would take to get into Boston from Andy's brother's house in Wellesley, Mass., about 13 miles out.

"I thought I had time to kill with the family," she said, laughing. "I was wrong."

Last year, Picking qualified for the Boston Marathon after finishing the Steamboat Marathon in 3 hours, 9 minutes and 28 seconds, the top Routt County finisher. The qualification cut off was 3:10:00.

For a mere $80, he entered Boston's race, though getting there and across the finish line wasn't as easy.

Picking, used to roughly 500 people on his side for the start of the Steamboat Marathon, was joined by 17,000 other runners in Boston. It took more than a minute for Picking to get to the start line from where he began the race, even though his qualification time put him among the top quarter of the runners registered.

"It was like running in a parade," Picking said. "It was never less than three or four people deep on the sides. As you go through different towns you run through the center. One place had a band on the roof of a bar jamming. ... In Steamboat, you're competing from within. In Boston, there are people screaming and cheering the whole way."

Picking is accustomed to finding a place in his mind where he goes to pass the time. During Steamboat's marathon last year, he built a log home from scratch. In this year's race, he is going to continue building his home from the start at Hahn's Peak until the finish line at the courthouse.

In Boston, he just watched -- everything.

"There were so many people running I didn't have time to focus," Picking said. "There were so many people there just to check out. I didn't have time to go in my mind."

Picking said experiencing the Boston Marathon is a must for anyone who loves marathon running, especially those runners from smaller, mountain towns, but it isn't a good place to make a debut.

Steamboat, on the other hand, is the perfect place for someone to run a first marathon.

"It's so pretty and so beautiful," Picking said. "The nice thing is it has an early start, and it's run so well."

Race director Paul Sachs deserves some of the credit for that. A man passionate about running, Sachs sees to it that everything runs smoothly before, during and after the event.

Hundreds of volunteers make his job, and the job of the committee, a little easier.

Picking said he appreciates all the work that goes into making his runs in Steamboat ones to remember.

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