Plaindealer Staff Report
The 39th Annual Imogene Pass Run is set to run on Sept. 8 with over 1500 registered participants. The race's long history and the quality of both the course and race organization have made it a benchmark for high altitude trail runs. With a strong following of runners from the four corner states, the race also attracts runners from 30 U.S. states, as well as international runners. “This year we sold out in only nine hours,” said race director John Jett. “Internet registrations were through the roof with a sellout on the first day.”
The race, held each year on the Saturday after Labor Day, started in 1974 when Camp Bird Mine worker and Ouray resident Rick Trujillo and friends raced from Ouray to Telluride over the Imogene Pass jeep road. From then the race has grown to a field of over 1500, all eagerly awaiting the challenge of the 17.1-mile course that climbs to a height of 13,114 feet as it crests the summit of Imogene Pass.
Ouray city clerk Kathy Elmont has participated in the Imogene Pass Run an impressive 23 times. She was introduced to the run by her husband and “after 10 years of running it together, it’s just in my system,” Elmont stated. “It’s one of the things that brought us to Ouray. We’re blessed to have the health and passion to enjoy our backyard.”
Elmont described the race as “incessant forward motion; if you keep moving you’ll get there.” She feels that this type of event, along with many others, allows us “to discover greater capacity within all of us. What we are able to accomplish as individuals is thrilling.”
The race has a return rate of over 50 percent, and many athletes have made the trip more than 10 times. For some it has become an annual pilgrimage to experience the San Juan Mountains. This year 128 local entries are from Telluride, Ouray, Ridgway and Silverton; 148 from the Durango area; 115 from Boulder; 199 from Denver and suburbs; and, 196 from Flagstaff, Ariz.
The scenic beauty of the course is unmatched, but the harsh conditions have taken their toll for years. Strong winds, rain, lightning and snow have struck the late summer race and stretched the limits of both race personnel and runners. Hypothermia that hit several runners during a very cold race prompted the requirement of all runners to carry a hat, jacket and gloves.
Since 2008 the course has been closed to vehicular traffic. Each year the run's board of directors gets permission from the San Miguel and Ouray County Commissioners to close the road over the pass on race day. The closure will be in effect from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. for Telluride side access and from 7 a.m. until noon for access from Ouray.
The race will depart Ouray at 7:30 a.m. Runners will complete the trip when they reach the finish line in Telluride at the intersection of North Oak and Columbia streets. The finish line will be open until 2:30 p.m. and there will be an awards presentation in Elks Park at 1:30 p.m. Supporting the runners on their trek falls on the shoulders of an army of volunteers. With six aid stations along the course, and the start, finish and registration crews, over 200 volunteers are needed. Check www.imogenerun.com or call Jett at 728-0251 for more information or to volunteer.