On an unusually dry mountain morning - where gray air and a slight chill mixed to form a lingering haze in the Moreno Valley - 158 runners of all levels and ages stepped up to the starting line of the 4th Annual Angel Fire Adventure Marathon Sunday (July 1). There were 241 entrants in 2017.
The out-and-back path of either the marathon, half-marathon or 5k run has been in place since the inaugural race in 2015. This year, runners from 20 states were in attendance, with the majority opting to run the half marathon (13.1-miles).
Starting out close to 8,400-feet in elevation within the Village of Angel Fire, marathon and half-marathon runners made their way to State Road 434 and turned north towards U.S. Highway 64. Partly in the shadow of Agua Fria Peak, runners fanned out on the long straightaway and into deep orange-hued light caused by the smoke of the nearby Sardinas Canyon Fire. The seemingly flat course actually drops about 150 feet in elevation as the runners make their way towards Eagle Nest. The lost elevation is made up as runners return towards the starting line on South Angel Fire Road. Half-marathoners concluded their race here, while full marathoners ran past it and headed into the mountains - to the tiny community of Black Lake - and a gain of 400-feet of elevation.
A "bucket-list" race, the Angel Fire Adventure has seen a fresh batch of participants during each of its the four-years. The only returning marathon runner, and one of the oldest participants, was Richard Roth from Aurora, Colorado. Roth improved his time from last year by four minutes, crossing the finish line with a time of 5:01:36. His time in 2017 was 5:05:45.
Unlike other marathons, the Angel Fire Adventure Marathon has challenges unique to this venue. The elevation of this race is one of the more difficult obstacles that runners don't always account for. "I didn't realize how hard it would be," said Vincent Ma from San Jose, California, as he gulped his energy drink at a break station. "Coming from sea-level to these mountains, it's impossible to train for this."
First place male marathon runner was Miguel Perez who finished with a new course record time of 3:07:59. Perez was followed by Matthew Conigliaro who sneaked under the four-hour mark with a time of 3:54:33. Rounding the top three was Charles Clark with a time of 4:21:06.
Among female runners, Lorin Shimonek claimed the top spot with a time of 4:32:44, edging out the runner-up Jennifer Arrowsmith, who came across the finish line with a time of 4:34:33. Alexandra Sanden earned the third spot with a time of 5:06:08. The top three women finished 6th, 7th and 12th overall, respectively.
Half-marathon winner on the men's side was Yves LaFortune who garnered a time of 1:37:36. David Higgins followed in the second slot with a time of 1:40:32 and Rob Messett came in third with a time of 1:42:52.
Kellye LaFortune was the winner of the women's half-marathon, and third overall with a time of 1:41:30. She was pursued by Aubree Powers who finished with a time of 1:43:58 and third place finisher Alice Temple, who ended the day with a time of 1:52:18.
In the 5K run, Jonathan Gonzales led the way in the men's division with an overall best time of 20:57. He was joined by Evan Sales and Sidney Danner who recorded times of 21:24 and 21:52 respectively. In the women's division, Micah Neal outperformed the field with a dominant win and a time of 22:48. She was followed by Shannon Youngquist who posted a time of 26:17, and Mackenzie Hayes who was third with a time of 26:31.
Along with the competitive runs, the Angel Fire Adventure Marathon also had a "Happy Feet" event for children ages 2-10.