28th-annual Steamboat Marathon as popular as ever

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Pilot & Today staff

If you go

What: 28th annual Steamboat Marathon

When: Sunday, starting at 7:30 a.m.

Where: The day will include a 26.2-mile marathon, which starts near Steamboat Lake; a 13.1-mile half-marathon, which starts on Routt County Road 129; and a 10-kilometer race in Steamboat Springs. All the races will finish on Lincoln Avenue in front of the courthouse in downtown Steamboat.

Road closures

- The westbound lane of Lincoln Avenue will be closed from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday between Fifth and 11th streets, with each of those streets closed between Lincoln Avenue and Oak Street.

- On Routt County Road 129 from Cullens Corner to the start of the half marathon, there will be one-way traffic controlled by a pilot car leading traffic on the southbound side of the road.

- Northbound traffic on C.R. 129 will be diverted to the left lane just past the entrance to Elk River Estates and proceed north to Cullens Corner, where traffic controllers will be in place.

- Southbound traffic on C.R. 129 will be diverted at Cullens Corner onto C.R. 44 then back onto C.R. 129 just north of the airport.

Packet pickup

Registration packets can be picked up at Olympian Hall at Howelsen Hill from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

— Andy Picking didn't hesitate much.

"My best memory running the Steamboat Marathon," he started, before pausing. "My best memory was the first year we had my new daughter. She was waiting for me at the finish line. That was pretty special."

That, he said, topped his second-place finish in 2006. It topped his first 26.2-mile trek from Hahn's Peak to Steamboat Springs in 2001, and it topped his eighth-consecutive running of the signature Steamboat race last year.

With his daughter, Sophie, now 3, and 2-year-old twins Izzy and Drew waiting at the finish line, he said this year's race will be pretty sweet, as well.

"When you have kids, it puts everything in perspective," Picking said.

Picking will join nearly 1,700 runners Sunday as they stream down Routt County Road 129 into Steamboat Springs, a massive herd heading for friends and family waiting behind the ropes of the finish line.

The 28th-annual Steamboat Marathon returns to the Yampa Valley on Sunday. All the races start at 7:30 a.m. The full marathon starts near Hahn's Peak. The 13.1-mile half-marathon kicks off from Moon Hill along C.R. 129, and the 10-kilometer race starts at the courthouse on Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat and winds around town.

All the races and all the nearly 2,000 expected competitors will finish on Lincoln Avenue in front of the courthouse.

"I'm getting excited," race director Paul Sachs said. "Everything's going great. So far, so good."

Sachs said this year's registration numbers have proven almost a mirror image of 2008's. The marathon again isn't likely to reach its 500-runner capacity, topping out at a little more than 400. The half-marathon, meanwhile, remains extremely popular. It filled its 1,300 available slots several months ago. The 10K's participation is more difficult to predict. It's typically filled with runners making last-second decisions, and Sachs said Sunday's weather forecast could make as big of a difference as anything else.

"It's been very similar this year to the last couple of the years," Sachs said. "It's encouraging that even in this economy, things haven't changed. It's a great time to come up to Steamboat, and people that do stay here in town at least one night, and most stay two."

The number of competitors will be the same. The courses will be the same. And the smart money says the marathon winner will be the same, as well.

Eight-time Steamboat Marathon champ Jason Saitta, of Parker, will return. Saitta has captured the top spot eight times in the past decade. He won last year's event in 2 hours, 36 minutes and 2 seconds. He'll try to win the title for the fifth consecutive time this year.

Saitta may be the favorite, but Picking said he'll finish near the top, as well. He wouldn't say what time or place he was aiming for, only that after eight successful trips, he couldn't be more excited to go for a ninth.

"I've done it so many times, now I wouldn't know what else to do with myself," Picking said. "Having run the Boston Marathon and some of the other world-class marathons out there, I have to say the Steamboat Marathon is great. It has a hometown marathon feel with world-class organization."

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