The 24th annual Pueblo to Pueblo race on Saturday drew runners and bikers from across the Four Corners.
Organized by the Cortez Cultural Center, the race includes a 5K, a half-marathon and a 29-mile bike race. Ninety-nine 99 cyclists and runners turned up for this year’s event, where they raced under a sunny sky with temperatures in the 70s – a welcome change from last year, when it snowed. Many contestants were from outside Montezuma County, and some traveled from out of state.
A group of friends from the Durango Running Club won the men’s 5K and both the men’s and women’s half-marathon. Michael O’Hare, Imogen Ainsworth and Sean Meissner were all participating in their first Pueblo to Pueblo.
“It’s a classic Four Corners race that I’d heard about for a while, and I thought it’d be a fun Saturday morning race out in Cortez,” Meissner said.
He finished first in the half-marathon with a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes and 25 seconds, beating Ainsworth by one second.
O’Hare said he ran the men’s 5K because Cortez was on his way to Cedar Mesa, where he was headed for a camping trip. He won the men’s 5K with a time of 18 minutes, 12 seconds.
The race’s youngest winner, 15-year-old Nicole Nelson, drove from Ephraim, Utah, to participate in the 5K.
“I’m turning 16 in a month or so, and we needed driving hours,” she said. “My parents said, ‘Let’s drive somewhere,’ and I wanted to do a 5K while we were there.”
She and her parents, Kyle and Jody Nelson, decided to drive the five hours to Cortez to participate in the Pueblo to Pueblo race, which she ended up winning with a time of 22 minutes, 9 seconds. Nicole said she wasn’t expecting the race to have “so many hills,” but the basketball and soccer athlete wasn’t surprised at her win.
Her parents said they planned to visit Mesa Verde National Park before heading home.
In the men’s bike race, Sean Fitzgerald won with a time of 1 hour, 18 minutes, 15 seconds – his second win in a row. Ashley Stapleford won the women’s bike race in 1 hour, 36 minutes, 29 seconds.
The bike race was 4 miles longer this year than it was in previous years, with a route that stretched all the way to the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and back along Dolores Road.
Each race winner got to take home a piece of running gear supplied by Osprey Packs, and everyone who participated could pick up free fruit and pastries from the Dolores Food Market inside the Cultural Center. Many of the contestants stayed in the center’s courtyard after the race to socialize.
Pueblo to Pueblo is an annual fundraiser for the Cortez Cultural Center, and one of the first big races of the year in Montezuma County.