Steamworks Half Marathon race director Matthew Krichman called Ian Huang on Thursday after he saw that the defending champion was not registered on the sold-out, 300-person race roster. Krichman made an exception to the rule, and Huang became runner No. 301.
“All I can say is, champions show up, and Ian is a champion,” Krichman said. “After he saw the preview article in the paper questioning why he wasn’t racing, he emailed me and said ‘I’m in.’ There’s always room for a champion to defend his podium, and we were glad that he was able to make it.”
Huang successfully defended his Steamworks Half Marathon crown, as he won the race in 1 hour, 18 minutes and 27.71 seconds and finished with a 5 minute, 59 second pace. Sam Yount, who was the pre-race favorite before Huang’s last-minute sign-up, was second in 1:19.19.14, while Brian Miller rounded out the top-three in 1:25.02.
On the women’s side, it was Maggie Yount who continued her dominance in Durango races, as she repeated as women’s champion in 1:28.58, despite battling a stomach bug. Her time was good enough for a fifth-place finish among all runners.
“It wasn’t my best day I’d say, and had some stomach issues earlier this week that decided to come up again during the race,” Yount said. “I told (Krichman), the race director, at Mile 6, I was ready to jump into that car. I’m glad I finished, and more importantly, am glad that there are so many female front runners this year. There were a few of us who were able to break 1:30, and it’s really great for Durango racing.”
Yount, despite feeling under the weather, set the tone for the race as she came out strong, and ran at a 6:47 pace. She was one of two women who broke the 90-minute barrier. Megan Longinotti was the other, as she took second in 1:29.35. Mary Whitt of Bayfield was the third-fastest female finisher and crossed the line in 1:41.47.
The race returned to its traditional June race day this year after Krichman estimated that 30% of runners who signed up in last year’s race were unable to compete the makeup date in August because of June’s 416 Fire.
“Last year, the runners were super understanding after we had to postpone the race, and there was no question it was the right decision,” Krichman said. “The smoke was so severe and we rescheduled it to a date in August. It did affect it because a lot of people couldn’t make it to our make-up date. We extended a 50% discount to anybody last year who couldn’t make it, so we basically made good on it and today was a huge hit.”
Steamworks Brewery co-founder Brian McEachron said that the half marathon is always one of the favorite events the brewery helps sponsor, and this year’s race lived up to the billing.
“We want to come back and experience what we love,” McEachron said. “This is why we live, work and play in Durango. It was a great day for running, we had a great selection, the beer was cold and we’re going to keep on having fun and putting this race on.”
While it was a bit of redemption for some runners who were unable to compete in last year’s race, this year also featured young runners who tried their hand at a half marathon. Ten-year-old Kennan Barrett, who ran with his mother, Denise, took second in the male 17-and-under age division and pushed through the pain to have a strong finish. He finished in 2:41.33.
“Well, I enjoyed it a lot, I had some tears near the end and it was really tough, but I had a strong finish through the rest, and it was awesome,” he said. “Overall, I did really good for my age and stuff, and I think I could start doing these more and could get better at them, too.”
The race raised more than $5,000 for the Marc Witkes Memorial Scholarship, which is awarded every semester to athletes of the Fort Lewis College men’s and women’s cross-country teams and is provided through the Durango Running Club.
“We’re always so grateful for everything this race does, and the money for the scholarship is always really special,” Krichman said. “Over the years, the fund has grown to over $100,000 and is now an endowment. It’s pretty cool, and if you look around the Durango running community, you can point to people who went to Fort Lewis College on that scholarship fund who are still here, still running and might not have been able to go to college without that. This race means the world to so many people and it’s easy to see why.”