A tough course and an elevation of 7,000 feet couldn't scare away dedicated runners at the Cowboy Half Marathon on Saturday.
The racers and supporters gathered under sunny skies in Boyle Park. The Jelly Belly Boogie Band from Durango and Bayfield was on hand to entertain the crowd.
The race drew 75 people and exceeded expectations by drawing in 15 people on race day, said Ben Hahn, race director and president of The Mancos Project, a local high-altitude training center.
Some of the top runners at the event were aspire to be professionally sponsored, including the overall first-place finisher Stephen Muange, who recently moved from Kenya to pursue his career in the U.S.
"Running is my hobby, running is my everything," Muange said.
He won with a time of one hour 13 minutes and 41 seconds and a pace of 5 minutes and 38 seconds. Muange currently trains in Santa Fe.
Second-place finisher Christian Thompson came from the East Coast and was challenged by the course.
"Coming from sea level, it was really hard," he said.
Thompson, a personal friend of Hahn's, is a member of the New York-New Jersey, a professional track and road racing team and focuses on marathons.
Hahn started the event to showcase what Mancos has to offer and hopes the event will draw hundreds of runners next year and expand naturally by word of mouth.
His vision is to turn it into a race series as part of the effort to build the reputation of the local running culture, which he sees as strong, though not as established as Durango's.
"There's a lot of athletic people in this town - a lot of runners and trail runners," he said.
His high-altitude training business is also part of that effort and is headed into its second season. It will be housed at Groundhog Reservoir from June through August, and Hahn is expecting between 15 to 20 athletes, including a few from outside the United States.