Noelle Green flies toward the finish line during Sunday's Steamboat Marathon. Green easily won the women's race, finishing more than 20 minutes before any other woman.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Noelle Green flies toward the finish line during Sunday's Steamboat Marathon. Green easily won the women's race, finishing more than 20 minutes before any other woman.

Marathon proves to be waterproof

Saitta wins ninth title, fifth in a row

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— On top of a small rise near the midpoint of Sunday's Steamboat Marathon, the "Chariots of Fire" theme song played on a seemingly endless loop.

"Do you think this is still the right song?" someone asked as a stream of runners worked their way down the Elk River Valley and toward Steamboat Springs, and the song restarted for the fourth consecutive time.

Steve Fesch, who played host to a marathon tailgate party in front of his Routt County Road 129 ranch, didn't even take a step toward the stereo.

"Oh, we may get tired of it," he said, "But it's definitely still the right song."

All 1,032 half-marathon finishers and 313 marathon runners summited the hill and passed in front of Fesch's ranch, where he, Jessica Guerrero and Kim Reuter watched. Guerrero rattled a noisemaker, Fesch thumped a bucket with a hammer, and Reuter clanged a cowbell. And, in their own way, they helped runners complete the grueling Steamboat Marathon.

It rained, it shined, and it even hailed. But in the end, that only seemed to encourage the swarms of exhausted runners to successfully cross the downtown Steamboat finish line.

"It was great," race director Paul Sachs said. "The weather got a little worse for the marathon, but otherwise, especially with the 10-kilmoter and the half-marathon, everything was almost perfect."

On a day with constantly changing weather, only men's marathon champion Jason Saitta could offer some stability.

Saitta won the race for the ninth time, and it was his fifth Steamboat Marathon championship in as many years. He finished with a time of 2 hours, 35 minutes and 42 seconds.

"At the starting line, they announced 30 seconds to the start, and I was still tying my shoe," Saitta said. "I was still tying them when the gun went off, and I got trampled."

The minutes it took Saitta to pick his way through the marathon field were the only ones when the race was at all in doubt.

He led by nearly 10 minutes halfway through the race and won it by almost 14.

"I just love everything about this marathon. I'm planning on being back next year," Saitta said. "So long as the streak's going, I'll be here. I'll be here then after that, too."

Patrick Flores, a Katy, Texas, runner in the state for business meetings, was second at 2:49:40. Steamboat's Andy Picking was third at 2:53:20. Local Allen Belshaw, meanwhile, finished fifth.

"The weather was perfect," Picking said even as it rained and a stiff wind picked up. "The last couple years, it's been pretty warm. It may not have been a good day to watch, but it was perfect running weather."

Women equally impressive

Women's marathon champion Noelle Green logged a victory every bit as dramatic as Saitta's.

Green, of Erie, was the eighth overall finisher, crossing with a time of 3:02:10. She beat her nearest female competitor, marathon rookie Laura Holtrop, by 22 minutes.

"That's one of the fastest women's times we've ever had," Sachs said. "She's 44, and we're pretty sure we've only had one woman ever break the 3-hour mark. So she was pretty fast."

Eve Newman, of Laramie, Wyo., was right on Holtrop's heels in third place. Steamboat's Angie Mangiardi was fifth at 3:28:11.

"I love doing this race every year. I love finishing in town and running through Steamboat," Mangiardi, a three-time Steamboat Marathon veteran, said. "This year was the best."

Littleton's Tim Hola won the men's half-marathon for the third time in the past four years. He finished the 13.1-mile course in 1:18:29. Max Lawler was second and Dan O'Connell was third.

Boulder runner Jamie Rosenquist won the women's half-marathon in 1:31:22. Temple Marks was second, and Eileen McCann was third.

Josh Wright, of Denver, won the men's 10-kilometer race in 34:32. Justin Daerr was second and Craig's Todd Trapp was third.

Denice Murphy of Morrison, meanwhile, won the women's 10K in 43:31. Shannon Bridgeman was second, and Amanda McCracken was third.

Many of the nearly 1,800 runners who competed Sunday didn't do so with hopes of a high finish, though.

Elisabeth Van Woert, for instance, came to Steamboat from Helana, Mont., to try to reach the qualifying time of 3:40:49 for the Boston Marathon.

"I was tricked into thinking this was just a downhill marathon. But it's not entirely downhill at all," she said, catching her breath after finishing.

She kept track of her pace by counting the number of songs that had played on her iPod, then leapt in the air and waved to the gathered fans as she crossed the finish line. She finished 13 minutes ahead of her previous personal best and qualified for Boston with nine minutes to spare, finishing in 3:31:03.

"I'm pretty psyched," she said.

Judging by the number of wet and cold but nonetheless grinning faces, she was far from alone.

Click here for all results from Sunday's Steamboat Marathon, half-marathon and 10K races.

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