by Genevieve Mellott
Seeing the word “marathon” attached to anything is super intimidating to those of us who are not committed runners. When I first heard about the Carbon Valley Half Marathon, I just glossed over the whole “Half” part and thought, “It’s too far. There is no way I could do that.” But then I thought, “What kind of attitude is that?” And I did a little more digging. It turns out, you can join in the fun without running. Bingo.
The race is a no-judgment zone. It welcomes all levels and abilities with race lengths encompassing a one-mile fun run, 5K, and Half Marathon. If you can walk, jog, wog, or roll a mile or more, or even if you just want to donate and come cheer on the runners, it’s for you. That is not to minimize the accomplishment of completing the 13.1 miles. Everyone who finishes has the right to be very proud. This year’s event will be held virtually this spring AND in person on May 8 to meet the needs of whoever is interested. There will be vendors, sponsors, beer, coffee, and more. What’s not to like? Oh yeah, some of us don’t like running.
Again, as I discovered, the Half Marathon is not really about running. But it is about something bigger. Founders Brenda Ridgley and Mike Sindelar are passionate about helping families affected by autism. To do so, they created a fantastic course in 2013 weaving throughout Carbon Valley and opened it to the public to “make strides to embrace autism.” The money raised goes to autism research at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Eight races later, the competition is still going strong and has raised more than $120,000.
The impact of the race is not just on research and awareness, however. There are runners and families who take part every year. For one family in particular, the event is a reminder of why they love the area. The Vickers family discovered the race via an article in the Carbon Valley Consumer Report. At the time, none of them had run a half marathon. Their son Hunter lives with autism, so finding an event that supports it was huge.
Will Vickers, Hunter’s dad, had been interested in running for a while when he decided to join in 2013. “I was training for a 10k at the time, and I did not think I could do a half marathon. Since it was for autism, I decided to go for it.” That’s all it took to get the entire family involved. The first year, Will pushed Hunter in a stroller to complete the whole course. And Hunter, now a runner himself, continues to participate, saying he does it, “To raise more money. It is fun.” Hunter’s mom Monica is invested as well. She reflects, “This race has impacted our entire family and friends. Each year we have raised MORE money, and we have MORE runners, walkers, and joggers join us on our HUNTER’S HEROES! I am NOT a runner, and I have been able to jog it a few times, walk it, do a relay for the half marathon, and this year, I will do the 5K.” Monica believes in the cause so much she is now its fundraising chair!
Last year put a kink in the works, of course, but 2021 is back and better than ever. Registration is through May 8, the day of the race, but register early to make sure you get your packet and t-shirt! Come out for the cause and stay for the camaraderie and gorgeous views of the Front Range. Still on the fence? Hunter doesn’t mince words: “Run hard, run good, run it like you mean it, and good luck.” We’ll see you at the course.