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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.‬