The 13th Annual Up and Over organizers could not have picked a better day to have a race at Taos Ski Valley.
With cowbells and other noisemakers in the hands of excited children and adults, fans welcomed runners steaming down the final turn under a bright yellow sun providing perfect morning temperatures at the base of this alpine ski resort. And despite having faced a grueling vertical hike and treacherous downhill on the north facing slag, trail runners were all smiles as they leapt across the finish line. Perhaps it was a mistaken grimace of relief, or perhaps they were just happy to complete a special 10-kilometer journey in perfect running conditions. From an onlooker's perspective, it was a proud moment for all involved.
This year, 227 runners signed up for the unique challenge, which provides a varied and visual experience like no other. Starting at the Taos Ski Valley Children's Center - which sits at 9,200 feet in elevation - the course zig-zagged up the western end of the ski resort on Whitefeather, Jess's and Bambi ski trails to the top of Chairlift 2. The route topped out at 11,800-feet - an elevation gain of approximately 2,600-feet - before dropping down the east side on Honeysuckle and Street Car towards the meandering home stretch back to the Children's Center for the finish line.
One of the tougher races in New Mexico, the Up and Over happens to be a "bucket-list" type of event for many runners and offers a different kind of challenge from a typical road race or half-marathon. "It's not what I expected," said women's winner Heidi Anderson, who hails from Albuquerque. "We really enjoy Taos this time of year, and I wanted to see what it was like."
Anderson came in 16th overall and won the women's division with a time of 1:15:32. She was hotly pursued by runner-up, Wombat Wookie who crossed the finish line with a time of 1:15:48. Anderson grabbed the crown from Taos' Emma Patterson who has won this race the last three straight years, but was not listed as a participant this year. The top female runner from Taos was Leah Todd who came in 43rd overall with a time of 1:24:36.
On the men's side, Scott Hollingsworth from Albuquerque garnered the top spot with a time of 1:00:32. His pace provided a four-minute cushion ahead of second place runner, Zachary Marshall from Albuquerque who posted a time of 1:04:17. Javier Torres-Hughes from Las Vegas came in third with a time of 1:05:00. The top finisher from the Taos area was Guillermo Canedo from El Prado who came in fifth overall with a time of 1:06:40.
In total, there were 38 entrants from the Taos area, including husband and wife team Angel and Deeana Reyes who came in 27th and 54th respectively. Both were competing in their fifth straight Up and Over and were recognized for their string of consecutive races.
"We had so many great prizes from our local business community," said Courtney Tucker, who just completed her fourth year as race director. "Runners like Angel and Deeana received prizes for their multiple years of participation."
Top finishers were treated to cash awards from Engel and Volkers Taos, ski packages from Taos Ski Valley and various other running swag. "Plus, every runner who accomplished this feat received a medal," said Tucker, alluding to the hand-made clay medals made by Scott Rutherford from Rotten Stone Pottery in Arroyo Seco. "It also serves as a fully functioning drink coaster, to remind athletes of their fabulous run to the top of our mountain."
Along with the great support from sponsors, Tucker was pleased with the way volunteers and workers shifted into "give mode" to help produce such a great event. "Everything went extremely well," said Tucker. "The weather was unbelievably perfect, and so were the workers who put on a great race. Everyone did a tremendous job, and it was a great day on mountain."