With Leadville win, Courkamp, Mary Margaret now one away from burro racing Triple Crown
In his previous two years competing in the annual Triple Crown of pack burro racing, Pine’s Kirt Courkamp and his burro Mary Margaret had yet to come close to winning the annual 21-mile Leadville race.
That all changed Sunday.
Despite Courkamp’s difficulties with calf cramping at the previous weekend’s Fairplay World Championship Pack Burro race, he and Mary Margaret followed up that win in Fairplay with another victory in Leadville on Sunday, with a time of three hours, 59 minutes and nine seconds on the 21-mile course. This 70th edition of the Leadville Boom Days Pack Burro Race saw a record 86 runner-burro tandems a week after the Fairplay World Championship race also set a record for most competitors.
For Courkamp and Mary Margaret, it was an improvement on their time of 4:09:23.6 last year in Leadville, which was good enough for fourth place. In 2016 in Leadville, the duo finished in fifth place with a time of 04:23:14.
After the victories in back-to-back weekends in Fairplay and at Leadville, 56-year-old ultra runner Courkamp and Mary Margaret now enter this Sunday’s 13-mile race at the 45th annual Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race with a chance of taking home the Triple Crown. It’d be the first pack burro racing Triple Crown since legend George Zack and his pack burro Jack won all three races in 2015.
In 2015, the team of “Zack and Jack,” as they are known around pack burro racing circles, took first place at the 29-mile Fairplay race, the 21-mile Leadville race and the 13-mile Buena Vista course with times of 5:23:34, 3:45:00 and 1:41:26, respectively.
But that year the shorter Buena Vista race was the second in the series, breaking up the longer Fairplay and Leadville races. The following year, in 2016, Courkamp entered the scene for the first time. He and Mary Margaret topped Zack and Jack at Fairplay in 2016, with a time of 5:41:08. That debut win for the pairing was 10 seconds faster than Zack and Jack. A week later at Leadville, Zack and Jack romped to a win, more than a half-hour faster than Courkamp and Mary Margaret.
Again in 2017, Courkamp and Mary Margaret edged Zack and Jack in Fairplay. But then at Leadville, Zack and Jack took a victory in 3:55:00, compared to Courkamp and Mary Margaret’s fourth-place finish of 04:09:23.6.
Last weekend in Leadville, Zack elected not to race. But Jack rode with someone new, Jeff Bennett. By the end of the 21-mile course, Courkamp and Mary Margaret bested Bennett and Jack by 14 seconds. No other racers came within 10 minutes of the top-two finishers.
On the heels of their first-ever win at Leadville, Courkamp and Mary Margaret also are aiming to win their first at Buena Vista. Their best finish in Buena Vista came last year, with Courkamp and Mary Margaret finishing the 13-mile course in 02:00:45.3. That was just eight seconds slower than first-place finisher Andrew Knutsen and Crazy Horse and 36 seconds faster than Zack and Jack. In their first race at Buena Vista in 2016, Courkamp and Mary Margaret finished in third place with a time of 01:51:52.5.
Sunday’s 45th annual Buena Vista Gold Rush Days Pack Burro Race is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. The course will require racers and their burros to traverse approximately 13 miles consisting of pavement, bridges, singletrack and jeep road. The race begins at the railroad tracks heading west on Main Street, then turning around the baseball fields, over the Arkansas River, up the Whipple Trail to the Midland Grade and around the “Gentleman’s Loop”. The finish line will be back on Buena Vista’s Main Street near Colorado Ave.
Pack burro racing features runners pulling their burro — or donkey — by a 15-foot rope while carrying a 35-pound saddle pack containing miner’s tools: a pick axe, shovel and gold pan. For more informationon the races, visit PackBurroRacing.com.
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