As with most first-year events, it’s often more about future potential than immediate success. That would appear to have been the case this weekend with the first running of La Maratona Verticale Saturday at Copper Mountain Resort. While only 38 runners participated in the inaugural full- and half-marathon trail runs, those who crossed the finish line of the arduous course did so with smiles and a vision for growth.
“It was pretty exhausting and beautiful at the same time,” Zach King, 28, of Golden said after crossing the finish line seventh overall. “I love these kinds of races.”
As part of the new U.S. SkyRunner Series — an offshoot of the existing international SkyRunner World Series — this weekend’s race had certain elevation gain requirements to qualify as a skyrunning event.
Already popular in Europe, skyrunning and ultra running are growing disciplines of endurance racing now gaining momentum in the U.S.
“Races like this will help grow the sport,” King said of La Maratona. “It’s a huge addiction once you start going.”
Based on SkyRunner classifications, a sky run qualifies as a race between 22K and 50K (13 to 31 miles) that includes 4,265 feet of positive vertical gain. An ultra run follows similar guidelines but is run on a course more than 31 miles in length and can include even more elevation gain. Both categories qualify predominantly as trail runs with minimal paved portions on the course.
“I think you’re going to see skyrunning growing in the next few years,” race organizer James Gill said.
Regarding the lower than anticipated turnout he added, “I think there’s a little bit of an intimidation factor.” He still expects the event to grow substantially by word of mouth, as can often be the case with first-year events. It’s not uncommon for a well-organized race to grow exponentially between its first and second year.
As for the course itself, Gill described Copper Mountain as a “hidden gem” for trail running, and those participating agreed.
“The views were spectacular,” first-place finisher Eric Ebeling, 24, said. “The trail running is so much fun.”
The first-time marathoner ran the course in 4 hours, 3 minutes, 1 second.
Accomplished endurance runner Stevie Kremer of Crested Butte finished first among women and third overall in 4:10:12.
The marathon course included around 7,000 feet of elevation gain as runners navigated portions of Copper Mountain’s extensive trail network.
Even with the lower turnout, race organizers said they were pleased with the event and believe it could grow substantially in year two.
“I think it went really well,” race spokeswoman Alyssa Godesky said after the race. “The buzz we’ve been hearing from the running community is really strong.”
Copper Mountain will hold a second endurance race later this summer when the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC) 100K returns to Colorado Sept. 6. Last year’s UROC featured a course that started in Breckenridge and finished in Vail. This year’s race will both start and end at Copper. In addition to the 100K there will also be a 50K and half marathon. Over 300 runners participated in the three races combined last year including a number of elite ultra runners.
La Maratona Verticle will wrap up Sunday with a Vertical K 5K. Runners will start near midmountain and race to Copper’s summit on a course that will include around 4,000 feet of gain.
Full race results and information on the 2014 UROC 100k 50K and half marathon can be found at www.badtothebone.biz