Monument Marathon showcases the Panhandle
GERING — A signature event in western Nebraska, the Monument Marathon, attracted nearly 500 runners on Saturday during the seventh annual event. Runners traversed the beautiful and rugged course at the foot of the Scotts Bluff National Monument. While the terrain took runners off-road, two runners didn’t let that slow them down as they broke two records during the 2018 marathon.
As runners lined up east of Five Rocks Amphitheater in Gering, the runners stretched out and started their music to get ready. Dennis Fahrenbruch, 71, of Culbertson, Nebraska, has ran in the Monument Marathon since it began in 2011.
“There are some hills, but they aren’t bad and it’s just a really great course,” he said. “When you’re doing the full, coming down the first six miles is difficult because you’re coming downhill. Now the half, there aren’t really any hills likes that.”
He has ran 69 marathons so far and multiple half-marathons, although he doesn’t keep track. He completed his first half-marathon at the age of 52 and then ran a full-marathon the following year.
“You’re never too old to start running,” he said. “It gets in your blood.”
With runners out on the course settling into their pace, one young runner led the way. Adrian Agne, 10, of Denver, completed the 5K in 23:24. He said the course was difficult in the middle when he ran on the dirt, but it became easier after he reached the top of the hill. Agne said as he made his way toward the finish line,“Coming down the hill and hearing the music was really fun and hearing everyone cheering.”
While Agne was the first runner across the finish line, the crowd cheered as the lead runners in the half- and full-marathons crossed the finish line in record time.
Alejandro Garcia, 24, of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming, set a new record in the half-marathon after breaking the record by three minutes. His official time was 1:13:58.
“I mean that was always the goal really. When I signed up for this race probably four months ago, I was planning to be fit. But actually I’m a teacher at Creek Valley in Chappell and so, being around kids, I’ve been sick for the past few weeks. I’ve just been running three miles a day.”
Garcia has ran in other half-marathons and said his best time was 1:10:29 at the Horsetooth Half in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“I guess that will just give me another goal, to beat that (time) next year,” he said.
As more runners continued to cross the finish line, the crowd became excited as the first full-marathon runner came around the final corner. Dylan Stansbury, 26, of Crawford, was the first full-marathon runner to cross the finish line. He broke the record by two seconds with an official time of 2:49:21.
After crossing the finish line and drinking some water, he said that was his first marathon and his worst marathon. The hills were the most difficult aspect of the course.
“I felt like I wanted to be done,” he said. “I almost felt like I didn’t want to run another marathon again.”
Still, he has his sights on a marathon event in Sacramento in December and plans to train more for that event.
For some participants, the Monument Marathon is another step toward completing a marathon in all 50 states across America. That was the case for four friends who traveled from Florida. Cathy Alcock, Madonna Letourneau, Cindy Baumgarten-Velen and Jenna Clark traveled from southern Florida and arrived in Scottsbluff on Friday for the event.
“It was so pretty by those rocks,” said Letourneau. “But the elevation was tough for us. We’re flatlanders.”
Beyond participating in the run, Clark and Alcock celebrated their birthdays.
“I wanted to run a marathon on my birthday,” Alcock said. “The guy on the course said, ‘Couldn’t you think of anything else more fun to do on your birthday?’ It was a fun birthday run.”
During their time in the area, they said the people are some of the nicest they’ve ever met. They would also recommend the Monument Marathon to any 50 state runners who need Nebraska.
“I would say do this race,” Letourneau said. “Just be prepared to go off-road and know about the elevation and the hills.”
Alcock finished the marathon in 4:35:42. Letourneau crossed with a time of 4:35:42. Baumgarten-Velen had a time of 4:52:47 and Clark finished in 4:15:44.
Funds raised from the marathon are used for student scholarships. Western Nebraska Community College President Todd Holcomb said, “it really helps students achieve their dreams and goals.”
Holcomb participated in the 5K run and finished with a time of 46:03. He said he enjoys taking part in the event every year because he meets new people and “it’s a great way to showcase the volunteers and the awesome hospitality we have here in the Panhandle.”
There were 290 participants who registered for the half-marathon, 120 participants in the 5K and 80 participants in the full-marathon.