On April 29, professional distance runners, recreational joggers, local cyclists and scores of casual onlookers took to the streets of Cortez to participate in the 23rd annual Pueblo to Pueblo race.
Among the events offered at the longtime local race were a 25-mile bike ride, a half-marathon run and a 5K run. Osprey backpacks and medals were provided to the Top 3 male and female finishers in each event.
Finishing first overall in the male division half-marathon run with a time of 2 hours, 3 minutes and 52 seconds was professional distance runner Anthony Kunkel, who lives in Durango and hopes to participate in the 2020 Olympic trials.
Appearing to barely break a sweat by the end of the race, Kunkel said that he participated in the Pueblo to Pueblo strictly for training purposes, but enjoyed the experience nonetheless.
“Today was more of training run for me, and I’m going to go out and get a bunch more miles in later,” said Kunkel, who has been running 140 miles per week. “It was a faster course than I expected. It was beautiful, and the views of the Sleeping Ute were spectacular. I would highly recommend this race to anybody.”
Placing first in the male division 5K race with a time of 19:53.95 was 15-year-old Will Brown, who attends Montezuma-Cortez High School and is a member of the school track team. Breathing slightly harder than Kunkel, but still appearing to be less than tired, Brown said that he enjoyed the race.
“The course was nice and flat,” Brown said. “This was my first time running the Pueblo to Pueblo, and I enjoyed myself. I decided to run because my mom told me too.”
Other first-place finishers included M-CHS soccer coach Sean Fitzgerald, who won the bike race, and Cortez resident Christa Zubieta, who finished first in the women’s division of the 5K.
Both Fitzgerald and Zubieta said that they cherished the experience of competing in the local event despite the less than warm weather that moved through Cortez during the early stages of the race.
“It’s awesome that they are doing a little race course inside of Cortez,” Fitzgerald said. “The course was good. It’s a lot of rollers and a fun downhill back into town. It’s a little frustrating going out, but it makes it fun coming back in.”
According to race organizer Peggy Tennyson, 84 individuals signed up to compete before to race day, and several more signed up on the morning of the race. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Cortez Cultural Center, which sponsors numerous local programs and events throughout the year.
“We had pretty good turnout,” said Tennyson. “We were expecting more people to sign up, and then it snowed. Even so, we had good numbers.”
“I definitely think (the Pueblo to Pueblo) was a unique experience because it’s related to the Cultural Center,” Zubieta said. “The Cultural Center represents the unique cultures that we have in this area, which are vastly different to the cultures that we have in my home state of New York. This race is a great event.”