Europeans win Rockies half-marathons |

Europeans win Rockies half-marathons

Devon O'Neil
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Martin Tucek, left, and Eric Hermann tear down the final stretch of the Copper-to-Frisco bike path during Saturday morning's 29th annual Run the Rockies. Tucek, a Czech native, won the half-marathon, while Hermann, of Vail, won the 10K.

FRISCO – Their feet were as light as their accents were heavy.By the time it was over, Martin Tucek and Tania Pacev had injected a bit of European flair to the 29th annual Run the Rockies on Saturday morning, topping their respective genders in the event’s premier race, the half-marathon.Tucek, a Czech native who spent time as an international-level Nordic skier and triathlete when he was younger, held off Summit running standout and defending half-marathon champion Paul Brett over the final half of the race to win in 1 hour, 19 minutes, 32 seconds.Pacev, a petite, Romanian-born speedster who now competes for the U.S. 100K team, breezed to victory in the women’s race with a time of 1:33:58.Both live in Denver now, and were competing in their first Run the Rockies on Saturday. They left smiling.

Brett, however, made Tucek earn his warm feeling inside. Although the Czech commercial lender, who relocated to Denver only a week ago, jumped out to a seemingly insurmountable lead over the first 5 miles, Brett never lost sight of his second straight win.Once they had finished the downhill portion of the course that runs on the Copper-to-Frisco bike path, Tucek had about a 2-minute lead. From there, they headed toward Breckenridge, and eventually turned around near Farmer’s Korner before returning to finish at Frisco Main Street. “At first I thought there was no chance,” Brett said. “But on the first straightaway I saw him, and I gained on him for the rest of the race. But it was too much.””I was hoping I was OK,” said Tucek, who looked over his shoulder for much of the race’s second half, but still managed to keep up his 6:05-mile pace. “I felt pretty good.”Brett finished in 1:20:08, 36 seconds back of Tucek but still well ahead of his winning time last year. Patrick Maxwell of Arvada, last year’s runner-up, claimed third (1:29:35).

The women’s winner Pacev used the race as a training run for the 100K world championships in Japan, which are two weeks away. She was never challenged, winning by more than five minutes over Nancy Thonen of Thornton (1:39:14). “When I run, I run against the clock,” said Pacev, whose only goal was to finish under 1:35. “I don’t run against other people.”Breckenridge’s Bre Griffin, a former Summit High School volleyball star and current CU senior, surprised herself to finish third (1:39:46). She is working for the town of Frisco (one of the race’s sponsors) this summer, and signed up after seeing a pamphlet in her office.In the men’s 10K race, Vail’s Eric Hermann used a late push to separate himself from runner-up Brian Turner, who was visiting from Edinburgh, Scotland. Hermann’s acclimatized lungs were too strong for Turner, who said he went into oxygen debt and had nothing left to match Hermann’s stretch run.Kevin Kleinhenz, who lives in Los Angeles but was visiting relatives in Summit, finished third on Saturday, his mohawked hairdo knifing through the chilly mountain air.

Hermann won the race in 35:42, an impressive 5:46-mile pace. Kent Lange (sixth) and Ian Chapman (10th) gave Summit two locals in the top 10.On the women’s side, Lakewood’s Karen Murphy won in 40:22, more than a minute better than Peggy Muhn of Wheat Ridge. Julie Thebeau led the local top-10 finishers in fourth place, followed by Mary Freilingsdorf (fifth), Molly Clark (sixth), Sarah Landeryou (seventh) and Gini Bradley (10th).Frisco’s Jill Ozaki won the walker’s division by a longshot, earning her second straight RtR victory in 1:06:27 – a mile pace of 10:27.Finish line: When the race began Saturday morning, puddles were frozen over and a fresh coat of snow covered the peaks above. … Race director Mike Heaston said 455 participants took part overall, a 20 percent increase over last year. … Frisco’s Ray Cook, 59, finished 12th in the men’s 10K after taking 20 years off from running due to chronic achilles problems. It was his first race since the 1985 Run the Rockies.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at

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