Starting at 9 a.m. and every 10 minutes subsequently after, 2,543 participants from across 46 states and five countries set off on their participation at the 13th Sedona Marathon Event on Saturday, Feb. 3.
With the sun shining and temperatures at a reported 20 degrees higher than the 2017 edition, racers took off from behind the Verde Valley Medical Center’s Sedona campus.
Adam Owens, of Flagstaff, won the men’s full marathon in 2:55:56.
“First off, I want to congratulate all the runners out there, everyone on the podium and everyone that just finished. It’s a really hard course, and it’s a hot day. It’s just incredible to finish a race like this,” Owens said. “As for myself, I’m obviously really proud to have won the race and I’m really surprised, honestly. I haven’t run a marathon in two and a half years, and the longest run I’ve done at altitude is 18 miles, so it’s kind of a toss up but I’m really glad how it came out.”
Of the four events — full marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K — the half marathon had the largest number of finishers at 984, according to smeresults.com. There were 748 10K runners, 623 5K runners and 188 full marathoners.
The winner of the women’s full marathon was Mamiko Berger of Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, finishing in a time of 3:37:26. Berger, who lives at sea level in Bangkok, Thailand, was warned of the altitude but did not take a different approach to the Sedona race at 4,000 feet.
“It’s just breathtaking, it’s so beautiful. I could go back [and run it] one more time,” said Berger, whose time was 26 seconds faster than last year’s winner. “I was told that I would have a problem with altitude as well as the temperature, but once I started I just forgot about it, just looked at the scenery.”
There are a number of things that makes the Sedona competition unique in the runners’ eyes, mainly the scenery. Another thing is the course, identical to last year’s, a turnaround that stretches from behind the medical center, onto a stretch of State Route 89A and up Dry Creek Road, then onto Boynton Canyon Road and Boynton Pass Road.
Runners everywhere could be overheard talking with family, friends and other runners about how many uphill stretches there are on the course. A good amount of the final miles are uphill. It makes for a more difficult run compared to others in big cities, which tend to be flatter.
“It’s one of the most difficult in terms of road racing,” said Emily Torrence, winner of the women’s half marathon. “Phoenix is flatter, so it’s a faster half marathon. [It’s difficult] even compared with Flagstaff because of the hills, you never really get a break.”
Torrence won in 1:21:26, just four seconds off the event record, set by Autumn Ray in 2016.
The event did not involve just running to one place, turning around and coming back. There were multiple food trucks, and vendors selling running apparel and other goods and services.
New this year, too, was a beer garden. Acting as a fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Sedona Red Rocks, runners were welcome to purchase a recovery beer, after multiple recovery waters and electrolyte drinks, from three local brewers: Grand Canyon Brewing Company, Wanderlust Brewing and Historic Brewing Company.
Jeffrey Frost, owner of Blue Wolf Events, said the event cost around $250,000, and extra funds were used to improve aid station offerings and traffic control as well as a shuttle service to get participants to and from the event.
The aid station winner this year was from the Sedona Charter School.
Beyond the Footsteps
Representing the Windy City, Melissa Stockwell competed in the 5K race, finishing seventh in the 35- to 39-year-old women category, the 30th overall woman and 69th overall runner. Stockwell, who was joined by friends for a girls weekend, competed with a running prosthetic left leg. Having a prosthetic leg the last 13 years, she said she has run in hundreds of events.
“It was harder than I thought it would be because there’s hills. The hills are hard,” Stockwell said.
Sixty-five-year-old Beth Chisholm was one of the event’s wisest competitors. After initially fearing she would miss out altogether due to injury, Chisholm completed the half marathon in 1:59:47. The Surprise native had planned on running the full marathon for a second year running.
“It’s tough coming in [to the finish line]. I did the full marathon last year and it was great. The scenery, it’s beautiful. It keeps you going because it’s a tough course. It’s really well organized,” Chisholm said.
Although there was a lack of prehistoric participation this year, but there were some superhero sightings.
Many participants donned tutus, there was a group of masqueraders, and one man carried an American Flag through his race while wearing thin-looking, moccasin-type boots. One 5K participant had his left leg on a knee scooter.
By the Numbers
Sedona’s Povi Plank won the female 10K in 45:23. Plank has won two races in a row; she took the 2016 5K in 22:16.
The eldest participant was 85-year-old Loretta Emerdinger, and the youngest was 2-year-old Harper Henderson; each competed in the 5K.
Every state and the District of Columbia was represented in the race, except for South Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia and Rhode Island. There was representation from five Canadian provinces as well: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
To view a photo gallery from the 13th annual Sedona Marathon Event, visit redrocknews.com.