Where the air is thin – Madison Marathon presents challenges, joys to runners

Streams of runners trickle down the Gravelly Range Road during the early stages of the 2012 Madison Marathon on Sunday. With an average elevation throughout the course of over 9,000 feet, the race is the highest road marathon in the country. Ben Coulter / The Madisonian.

CLOVER MEADOWS – Nearly 200 die-hard runners ascended to Clover Meadows Campground in the Gravelly Mountains on Sunday for the 2012 Madison Marathon, some looking to test their mettle on the high-altitude course while others simply took the opportunity to take in the breathtaking scenery.

As the runners set out from the start at approximately 8:30 a.m., the pack spread out quickly as the runners climbed one hill after the next. By the early mile markers of the half marathon the handful of elite runners had settled into a comfortable pace as the remainder of the field continued to trickle through the rolling hills and deceptively steep climbs.

Runner Patricia Elias of Butte, who is in her 60s, returned to the Gravelly Range on Sunday after running the race for the first time in 2009. She kept a steady pace throughout the course to the finish at Clover Meadows, but admitted the hills early on were a struggle.

Participation medals await runners at the finish line of the 2012 Madison Marathon at Clover Meadows campground in the Gravelly Mountains. Ben Coulter / The Madisonian.

“The downhills went very good. The uphills were very tough,” Elias said.

She struggled to overcome the early fatigue despite the course leveling out to more gradual terrain later on.

“But by then your legs are tired, so when you do get an uphill it still seems awful,” she said.

45-year-old Ed Detzi of Bozeman, who finished first in the men’s half marathon with a time of 1:38:06, said he enjoyed the laid back, friendly atmosphere of the race as well as the opportunity to take in his surroundings throughout the course.

“You can actually enjoy the beauty in this run, and your footing is so good that you can actually look out, where a lot of the trail runs the footing is so horrible you don’t see the beauty,” he said.

While Detzi appeared unfazed at the finish, he too admitted the start was the most challenging part of the race.

“I think the most challenging part is in the beginning,” Detzi said. “Serious climbs, and you need to really keep yourself out of the redline early. If you redline yourself too early, you go south real quick.”

“I tried to tell myself until about eight or nine miles ‘Keep yourself under that redline zone,’ and then the last five miles I just kind of picked up the pace,” he continued. “I guess I call myself a runner, but I’m not like a racer or anything.”

The top three men to finish the half marathon were Detzi followed by Shannon Smith with a time of 1:41:17 and William “Robby” Robertson with 1:54:14. The top three runners for the women were Alyssa Davis with 1:48:04, Ellen Lauchnor with 1:52:13 and Laurie Detzi with 2:00:45.

In the full marathon the top women’s runners were Lena Petersen with a time of 4:39:31, Bonnie Doerflier with 4:47:35 and Jamie Wieferish with 5:00:10. The top three men were Gary Krugger with 3:12:28, Mark Handelman with 3:25:09 and Itamar Belish with 3:27:15.

The team competition was won by Mad Cows for Real, made up of Jack Mueller, Kurtis Koenig, Cori Koenig and Jamie Cottom. Second place were the Bozeman Babes and in third were P&M Runners.

Although Patricia Elias fell victim to a leg cramp as she closed in on Clover Meadows, the experience was worthwhile and the smile on her face said it all.

“It’s gorgeous,” Elias said of the course averaging over 9,000 feet in elevation. “There are not many people that get to see the scenery like we do here.”


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