Steamboat Springs Those looking to wriggle out of Jason Saitta's stranglehold on the Steamboat Marathon are in for some bad news.
Saitta, who has won the men's marathon seven times in the past nine years, said Friday that he's feeling possibly the best he has before any Steamboat Marathon.
Add the fact that he's been specifically training for this marathon - his most recent race is the U.S. 50K Championships in March - and Saitta said he's as primed to do well as any time in the past.
Considering he won last year's event by more than six minutes after running a marathon in Oregon the previous month, the smart money is on Saitta to pick up his eighth Steamboat Marathon crown.
"I always plan to do well," Saitta said. "But you never know with marathons. When you get out, you have to see who is racing. In Colorado, anyone can show up. But I hope to win. That's always the plan."
It's usually the result, too.
Saitta has won the event four straight times, the first of that run coming in 1999. In 2003, he was leading the race until mile 17, when a leg injury forced him to drop out.
In hindsight, Saitta said that with the tendon injury to his leg, he shouldn't have been anywhere near a racecourse. Then, in 2004, he missed the event because he got married.
He's won the event the past three years.
"I think, and as far as I know, it's pretty unique for anybody to win that many times in a single marathon," race director Paul Sachs said. "He's a great guy, and, obviously, he's pretty amazing."
No doubt there will be competition for Saitta in today's event. Justin Mock, who finished second last year, and Todd Trapp, who finished third, are returning.
Mock just won the Post-News Colorado Colfax Marathon in May. Trapp will be competing in his second marathon ever.
Saitta, who trains with a coach and works as a certified public accountant in Parker, said when it comes to running the Steamboat Marathon, he doesn't necessarily worry about time. In fact, with the downhill portion of the race at the beginning of the marathon, Saitta - who said he's a "not a good downhill runner" - doesn't even try to keep splits.
"With this marathon, I just go out with whoever wants to go out and try to figure them out," he said. "Mile splits aren't as important here. It's running smart that matters."
Saitta's been training and logging about 85 miles a week with his coach. He hoped to make the U.S. Olympic Trials in men's marathon earlier this year, but missed the cut by four minutes. Still, he said with his training routine - he's always training and rarely takes a day off - Saitta hopes to eventually make the U.S. Olympic Trials.
"Obviously, he's a really good runner," Trapp said of Saitta. "If he can win it year after year, it speaks to the consistency in his training and his running."
Although Saitta wouldn't mention a time he'd like to run the marathon in - he runs this race more to win than get a good time - he said if everything goes right, today will be No. 8.
"I geared up specifically for this marathon," he said. "I feel in better shape."