Kristin Layne’s body was starting to feel the toll of the past week-plus in the latter half of Saturday’s Aspen Backcountry Marathon. Good thing she had incentive to finish quickly, as her kids were due at a birthday party before the lunch hour and to them that was more important than any race.
“It was tough. I was just fatigued from last weekend, I think,” Layne said. “I just think about what time it’s going to take me and I knew halfway I was right around that point. And then I was a little slow in the second half, but that’s OK.”
A little slow was still more than fast enough for the 37-year-old Layne, who took the women’s title in the full marathon in 4 hours, 9 minutes, 9.91 seconds, more than 30 minutes ahead of second place. This made it two weekends in a row she finished atop a podium, as Layne also won the Audi Power of Four 50k ultra last weekend in Snowmass.
Layne’s time was good for sixth overall, with only five men finishing ahead of her. Aspen’s Julia Rowland was second among women in 4:41:30.41, good for 11th overall, while taking third was Denver’s Rebecca Rees, whose time of 4:55:32.41 was good for 19th overall.
Aspen’s Jenna Read (20th overall), Aspen’s Emily Starer (21st overall), Carbondale’s Tami Kochen (23rd overall), California’s Aude Hofleitner (26th overall) and New Castle’s Tracy Pihl (29th overall) were next in line for the women and all garnered top-30 overall finishes.
“I tried to not go out fast, but that didn’t happen. I went out fast,” said Layne, who has called Aspen home since 2006, of Saturday’s backcountry race. “It feels pretty good. I didn’t feel good in the second half of the race today, but that’s just how it goes. It’s about learning how to struggle through it.”
Taking the overall race win was Boulder’s David Roche in 3:24:36.51. He finished a solid 20 minutes ahead of Aspen’s Michael Barlow (3:45:13.99) and Aspen’s Jeffrey Colt (3:47:44.81), who rounded out the men’s full marathon podium.
“I love these trails so much,” Roche said. “It’s like the home away from home and it’s so special to be out there and reflect on everything that is encapsulated in the trails and this journey.”
This was Roche’s second Aspen Backcountry Marathon win, as he also took the title in 2017 when he swept the race alongside his wife, Megan Roche, who did not race this year.
The Aspen Backcountry Marathon took runners primarily over Red Mountain and Smuggler Mountain, and it included lots of vertical and plenty of wildflowers in the high country. It started and finished in Rio Grande Park.
“It’s challenging because you go up a really steep climb,” Roche said. “A couple miles in you go up Sunnyside, but then after that, pretty much the rest of the way, if you can get there in a good mental place, is so enjoyable. The trails are soft, so it’s almost like you are running on clouds.“
Just finishing off the full marathon podium was Broomfield’s Gryphon Ketterling (4:02:26.06) in fourth, Pennsylvania’s Russ Kalbach (4:07:49.38) in fifth and then Layne in sixth. Rounding out the overall top 10 were Carbondale’s TJ David in seventh, Colorado Springs’ David Philipps in eighth, Snowmass’ Michael Bone in ninth and Basalt’s Noah Allen in 10th.
For Roche, 33, winning the race means a lot because Aspen means a lot. He and his wife are frequent visitors — at least once a month in the summer — and were even married in the nearby ghost town of Ashcroft.
“This is the race I wish everyone could experience once, even if they are not a trail runner,” Roche said. “Win or DNF or anything else, just being out there, these are some of the most special trails in the whole world. There is one point, about halfway through the race or a little farther, where it ran through fields of yellow wildflowers as far as the eye could see. And it’s like, ‘I need to come back here so I can spend more time in these flowers.’ Instead, I had to run straight through them.”
There was also a half marathon component to Saturday’s race, won by 19-year-old Luke Futey of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The CSU-Pueblo runner finished in 2:05:44.54, about 11 minutes ahead of Aspen’s Chris Kelly, who finished second in 2:16:21.81.
Taking third overall in the half marathon was the women’s race winner, Denver’s Emily Nist. The 27-year-old Idaho native, who formerly ran for both Syracuse and Temple, finished in 2:17:25.85. Carbondale’s Kevin Hadfield was fourth overall to round out the men’s podium, while California’s Laura Mooney and Florida’s Rebecca Whitman rounded out the women’s podium.
Complete results from the 2021 race can be found here.
This was the first Aspen Backcountry Marathon since 2019, after the 2020 race was canceled because of the pandemic. That 2019 race was won by retired Olympic cross-country skier Noah Hoffman, who grew up in Aspen. Gunnison’s Joshua Eberly edged Roche and Barlow in the 2018 race. Kelsey Persyn, a Texas native, won both of the women’s full marathon titles in 2018 and 2019.