As music blared in the background courtesy of a booth set up by KSJD and banners of local businesses waved in the air, scores of runners took off from the starting line at 7 a.m. sharp to compete in the Cowboy Half Marathon on June 22.
Sponsored by numerous local businesses, including Mullikin Physical Therapy, Osprey Packs and Kokopelli Bike and Board, this year’s event featured a 5K run and a half-marathon that led runners out of town along a beautiful single-track course winding through the Mancos Valley.
Sixty-one runners competed in the half-marathon, which was won by Adams State University runner Isaiah Rodarte, whose time of 1 hour, 16 minutes, and 44 seconds was good enough to win by more than a minute.
Durango Running Club standout Anthony Kunkel, who has made a name for himself competing in ultra-marathons, came in second with a time of 1 hour, 17 minutes, 52 seconds, and Durango resident Ian Huang came in third with a time of 1 hour, 18 minutes, and 47 seconds.
Among the many familiar faces to compete in the half-marathon was former Mancos High School runner and current Adams State University runner Ro Paschal, who returned to his hometown and finished fifth overall (1 hour, 23 minutes, 13 seconds).
Asked what makes that Cowboy Half Marathon so special, Paschal mentioned the race course before speaking about the Mancos running community, which has grown significantly in recent years and has produced several standout high school and college runners.
“It’s always fun to come home, and it’s really awesome to get back on the trails back in there,” Paschal said, gesturing toward Weber Canyon.
“The running community has really developed in Mancos, and that has culminated with a lot of success,” Paschal said. “It started with the class above me, and it just kept growing and growing.”
While several college and professional runners dotted the top of the standings in the half-marathon, the 5K portion of the event catered to recreational runners interested in getting some exercise and enjoying the sun.
San Antonio, Texas, resident Harry Bellow finished first in the 5K with a time of 17 minutes, 10 seconds. Mancos Middle School runner Zack Steele was second at 23 minutes, 29 seconds.
Among those who competed in the 5K were Pam Graf of Clovis, New Mexico, and Zoey Blakeley.
“This is my third year racing (in the Cowboy Half Marathon), Graf said. “People are so encouraging and so nice. The race is so well organized. It’s just one of the best ones.”
“My favorite part was the downhill coming back,” said Blakeley. “It was not as much of a struggle to go downhill.”
While running took center stage at this year’s Cowboy Half Marathon, community elements of the race were evident as young kids tossed flying discs into hula hoops and runners from near and far stood in circles and conversed.
Among the most community-oriented athletic events in Mancos, the Cowboy Half Marathon reminded runners why the race, which benefits the Mancos Public Library, is so special.