A Run Through Time: Salida Trail Marathon

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Earlier this month Anna-Lisa, Jax, and I made our way down to Salida where I ran in the 11th annual “Run Through Time” trail marathon. This race, which features both a half and a full marathon course, is Salida’s biggest running event and has been held in early-March every year for the past decade. Because of the calendar date and elevation of of the race, runners never quite know what they’re going to get in terms of conditions on the course until a few days prior to race day – anything ranging from dry, 60 degree blue bird skies to snow covered trials and sub-freezing precipitation and winds.

This winter has been an interesting one, with the majority of Colorado holding near 100% snowpack despite nearly a month of high pressure and warm temperatures in February that had many of us wondering if winter was officially a dud. While the skiing was a little disappointing leading up to the race, I was happy that the flip side of the coin meant the course would likely be dry. Turns out it was (99% of it at least), and as a cherry on top Salida was granted yet another superb weather day on March 12th, the day of the race.

A Google Earth mapping of the marathon course. Though the new course doesn’t quite make it out to the town of Turret, it gets close. Click to enlarge.

The Run Through Time was conceived 13 years ago by race director Jon Macmanus, when he and his wife, Rickie Redland, ran a similar course as a training run for the Hardrock Hundred. The course has been changed several times since then, but the first version of the full marathon entailed an out and back to the ghost town of Turret. Running from Salida to Turret was like running back in time to an era when ranchers and trappers inhabited the hills above the Arkansas River Valley, which is how the race was given its name.

After grabbing my bib and doing what I could to relieve myself, Anna-Lisa and Jax walked me out to the starting line. A few minutes later when half of us were still mid-conversation, someone yelled “go”, and we were off. The first 2 miles of the course loops around in the flats on the east side of town which served to spread everyone out before narrowing down to single track. The course then gains elevation up Sweetwater Gulch and breaks out onto a ridge, granting runners a long, scenic stretch of trail with the Arkansas River Valley below and snowy peaks above.

Rolling single track with Mt. Ouray poking its head up in the background.

Having read some reports of the Salida race I knew it would tougher than the first marathon I ran, but also more rewarding in the end as I knew I liked trails a heck of a lot more than pavement. The course entails somewhere around 4,000′ of elevation gain, followed by dropping the same 4,000′ back down to town. Apparently this year the race directors made several large changes to the course with the intention of increasing the percentage of single track vs. dirt road. Others who had run the race in past years confirmed this to be the case.

Shavano and neighbors, looking depressingly dry. But hey, it’s only mid-March right? Click to enlarge.

I had been coasting along at the exact same pace as the guy in front of me for at least 5 miles, so I finally decided to say hello and a pleasantly distracting conversation ensued. The runner’s name was Tom and he and I wound up running almost the entire race together, provided one another with some much needed motivation at times.

Me trying to keep up with Tom and green shirt guy ahead of him.

Another several miles and a few thousand feet of elevation gain and we reached the turnaround point of the course at mile 14. It was nice to hit this spot and know the rest of the race was mostly downhill. Aid stations were few and far to come by (generally 7 or 8 miles apart) so everyone made sure to stock up on fluids when they could.

Mile 14.51 marked the turnaround point.

Descending the Cottonwood Gulch trail on the way back to Salida.

After losing sight of Tom behind me, I coasted down a LONG stretch of trail in Cottonwood Gulch that seemed to go on forever, then up a painful final stretch of elevation gain that included a 40 degree sand pit to negotiate (I was pretty pumped about the sand, not). At the second to last aid station, around 23 miles in, I was pretty out of it and was seriously considering just fast walking the remaining miles to the finish line. But then, at the exact right time, Tom ran by and lit a fire under my a** to get going, and that sealed the deal.

The finish line and Steam Plant. We hung out on the river for quite awhile after the race and enjoyed a few beers.

Finishing off with 3 seven minute miles in a row, Tom and I crossed the finish line at 28th and 29th place (out of 164) right at the 4:07 mark, plus some change. I was pretty dang happy with that result, especially given several of the top 10 runners in the race were pros or semi-pros. The full list of results for the marathon can be found here.

We finished off the day by heading to Amica’s with Tom, his wife, and their friend, followed by an uneventful and enjoyable drive back to Denver. All in all I’d say the race was a positive experience and one that I could see doing again at some point. Once again, I had some awesome support from Anna-Lisa and Jax. My overriding takeaway was that we are all very blessed to be able to take part in events like these, in any capacity, and this one was no different. Some deranged part of me is already looking forward to the next one.

6 thoughts on “A Run Through Time: Salida Trail Marathon

  1. Brandon Chalk

    Nice, Ben! Dude, you are liking these marathons, eh buddy? I think its cool that you have chosen two of the most scenic ones to do no doubt. Congrats on your time and finish too, buddy. And I’m totally with ya on wanting to do the ones with more trail and dirt than pavement. Will help to save our knees.

    1. Ben Post author

      Brando, thanks man! Yeah, they’ve been fun to get into, at least in my opinion. I know some of the others in our clan probably think I’m insane, but that’s alright. After doing nothing but skiing and going after peaks for ten years, it’s been refreshing to try something new.
      That said, I’m pumped for spring peak season 🙂 Lots of snow falling, can’t wait to hit up a Gore ski with ya here soon…

  2. TJ

    Hey Ben – wow what incredible scenery and In early March – Vail just got two feet ( March 24th) so I could see you hitting just about anything in a race like that – its great that Al and Jax are along for support – keep up the good work and take care of those knees, Love ya, FAJA

    1. Ben Post author

      Faja, definitely happy all this snow is falling post-race! And the knees are still feeling good. I must have gotten yours 🙂

  3. DKYarian (Zambo)

    Dang dude…..you’re getting pretty good at this stuff. That’s a killer time for that kind of course. You should be really pumped. And you’re even looking the part and everything!
    Plus you’re combining it with the famed ‘I-am-Ben-Conners-and-I-will-never-let-someone-from-behind-pass-me attitude. My calves are still sore from when some dude tried to pass us on the 3,000’ death slope up Maroon.
    Haha, well done tho man. Let’s find one of these to do together in the Fall for sure.

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Zam! Haha, I’ve definitely had to let the “no passing rule” go since starting to run these things. The guys who get in the top ten and/or win these things are not human.
      I agree man, would be fun to run one with ya in the fall. There are a few in CO Springs and one up in Ft. Collins I’ve been eyeing…


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