The Marathon Master: Chuck Engle ‘Marathon Junkie’ gets stronger with every stride

Chuck Engle of Colorado Springs rounds a corner on Saturday during the Grand Valley Marathon. Runners competed in a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon, which all started and ended in Palisade. Engle won the marathon, which snaked over most of East Orchard Mesa.

Runners start the Grand Valley Marathon just before dawn on Saturday morning in Palisade. Angela Tsai, far right, won the women’s marathon in 3:32:22.

Runners cross the finish line, exhausted and looking a little pale, eager to replenish their body.

After a short break, Chuck Engle is ready to go again.

The Colorado Springs man known as the “Marathon Junkie” easily won the third annual Grand Valley Marathon in 2 hours, 58 minutes, 25 seconds Saturday in Palisade.

“I’ve never had anything, even to this day, like a marathon challenge both physically and mentally,” Engle, 40, said. “Every time you complete one, you feel like Superman. Now that I’m done and relaxed, I feel like I could knock down a tree. I’ve been like that after about every one. I feel like I could do another one tomorrow.”

He was tested more than he expected Saturday.

“I thought I could go a sub-2:40 on this course, but this course was deceptively tough today,” Engle said. “I was flying through the (first) half. I crushed it in like 1:17. At the flip (mile 14), my lunch was cooked.

“Man, it was ugly. You don’t know realize how much of a downhill it is on the way out. We started climbing (mile 5) and it felt like a 100 mph headwind and it about knocked me out.”

Tim Gnojek, 37, of Palisade took second in 3:20:27 and Larry Brede, 44, of Fruita took third in the men’s division in 3:29:17.

Gnojek ran the marathon for the first time, despite living three blocks away.

“I’ve always wanted to run it, but always had something else going on,” said Gnojek, who moved to the area four years ago. “I didn’t even wear a watch. I thought I’d go for a training run, something to go do.”

Gnojek does a lot of trail running and competes in 50 kilometer Ultra trail running races.

“Marathons are fast,” he said. “You’re out there for five, six hours on an Ultra run. It’s more of an adventure.”

Brede placed third in the Grand Valley Marathon for the second consecutive year and was second the first year.

“It was going to be my only one, but our oldest daughter was just born and I haven’t run for two months prior,” Brede said. “I did another one and was hooked. I used to train to run fast, now I run to have fun and it’s a lot more relaxing.”

Angela Tsai, 22, of Alpharetta, Ga., won the women’s division and took third overall in 3:32:22. Jessica Sullivan, 27, of Grand Junction took second in 3:45:32 and Hallgerd Eydal, 30, of Denver placed third in 3:58:00.

Tsai has friends in the Grand Valley and decided to get in a marathon while visiting.

“It was a great race,” Tsai said. “It was well-organized. It was the smallest race I’ve done, but very scenic. I would definitely do it again.”

Sullivan ran the full marathon for the first time after running the half-marathon last year.

She ran her first marathon eight months ago in Boulder.

“It’s about what I thought it would be,” Sullivan said. “I’m happy with it.”

Eydal, who is originally from Sweden, lives in Denver for research at Colorado School of Mines.

“I decided kind of late I wanted to do it,” she said. “I saw pictures. It was so pretty and it’s also about the same elevation as Denver.”

Engle, who is originally from Dublin, Ohio, started running marathons in 2003 after insulting a man who became his boss at the YMCA in Jackson, Miss.

“I was on a treadmill next to him and I think my words for him were something like, ‘You’re fat. You need to get in shape.’ We started talking about running. Less than a week later, he called me and wanted to hire me.”

They planned to run in the Boston Marathon and decided to run a marathon as often as they could.

Later that fall, they ran the Omaha (Neb.) Marathon. Engle won, setting a course record (2:34:35) and was interviewed by a newspaper reporter. It was his 18th marathon in a row and fastest of the 18.

The reporter described Engle as a marathon junkie. He had his middle name legally changed to Marathon Junkie.

“I love the name. I think it’s great. To be an addict to something like a marathon, I don’t think there’s anything better to have a healthy addiction like a marathon.”

Saturday’s marathon drew 39 runners.

Shanna Baker, 38, won the women’s half-marathon in 1 hour, 21 minutes, 31 seconds, beating a field of 73 women.

Ricky Denesle, 51, won the men’s half-marathon in 1:31:14.


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