Mt. Sneffels Marathon/Half Marathon Pulls a Fast One
by Samantha Wright
Aug 09, 2012 | 679 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY COUNTY – Several elite athletes are expected to compete in this Saturday’s Mt. Sneffels Marathon/Half Marathon, including the Kenyan-born Robert Cheseret, a three-time PAC-10 Track Athlete of the Year who narrowly missed a chance to compete in the 2012 London Olympics.

The annual race, whose proceeds go to the Mt. Sneffels Education Foundation, has become increasingly popular over the past few years since current MSEF president and marathoner John Ferguson took over promoting the event.

Last year, Ferguson added a full-length sanctioned marathon to complement the existing half-marathon, and marketed the run on the popular runners website This year, he’s amped up his efforts even more. For the first time ever, the Mt. Sneffels Half Marathon is serving as a USA Track and Field Colorado Men's Championship race.

The USAF was “thrilled to do it,” Ferguson said. “All the other championship races are on the Front Range; they thought it would be cool to come over here.”

Cheseret and fellow elite runner Kenny Foster, who is also competing in the half-marathon on Saturday, Aug. 11, are both in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program. Ferguson predicts they and the handful of other registered pro runners will finish the fairly flat 13-mile course between Ouray and Ridgway in a little over an hour, putting them at the finish line somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

“They are truly elite athletes and very talented,” Ferguson said. Other top guns to watch for include Matt Levassiur of Alamosa, Colo., whose personal best in the half-marathon event is a blazing fast 1:04:46, and Peter Maksimow, a former member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team.

A total of $2,000 in prize money is at stake. The athlete who comes in first place will win an $800 purse to go with the championship title, plus an additional $200 for setting the course record, which Ferguson guesses is pretty much “in the bag.”

Smaller cash prizes will be offered to second, third and fourth place winners.

The money comes from a plethora of race sponsors. “We had more sponsorship this year than we’ve ever had, which was good,” Ferguson said. “People have been pretty generous. One couple gave $7,000.”

All of which means good things for MSEF, a local nonprofit organization which seeks to broaden the educational experiences of school-age students in Ouray County. “If we get 600 registrants, we should be able to net $20,000 which goes to the MSEF fund,” Ferguson said.

All participants in the marathon and half-marathon will get cool swag bags this year, and an awards ceremony will take place on the stage at the Ridgway Rendezvous (also happening this weekend in Ridgway’s Hartwell Park) at 2 p.m.

It all adds up to make this run just a little bit better each year. Ferguson’s goal is to grow the race until it reaches the stature of the wildly popular Imogene Pass Run, which annually attracts 1,500 participants.

The half marathon starts in Ouray at 7,700 feet and finishes in Ridgway at 7,000 feet. The marathon is an out/back starting in Ridgway going to Ouray and turning back down to Ridgway. The course follows a dirt road that parallels the Uncompahgre River then winds through scenic farmland with beautiful mountain vistas.

This year, the half marathon will be entering its 12th year. The full marathon will be in its second running. There is also a kids’ fun run.

Registration is open until the morning of the race, Saturday, Aug. 11. The marathon starts in Ridgway at 6:30 a.m. and the half marathon starts at 7:30 a.m. in Ouray’s Fellin Park, near the Hot Springs Pool. The kids’ race starts at the Ridgway soccer field south of town, right next to the Marathon/Half Marathon finish line. Start time is 10:30 a.m. This year there will again be a "Walker" category, which gives those that sign up to walk the half marathon the option to start in Ouray at 6:30 a.m.

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