Krugger, McLaughlin lead way in Rim Rock despite cold, windy conditions

Runners run on Rim Rock Drive during the Rim Rock Marathon Saturday morning.

Gary Krugger, from Flagstaff, Ariz., runs Saturday at the 4-mile mark on Rim Rock Drive during his victory in the men’s division of the Rim Rock Marathon. Kruger won the race along Colorado National Monument in 2:56.34.

Christy McLaughlin, right, was the winner of the women’s division of the Rim Rock Marathon with a time of 3:28.34. On the left is Lillian Dinkins from Grand Junction, who finished in 3:34.46.

Marathon runner Gary Krugger likes warm weather and prefers to run in it, so it makes sense he lives in Arizona. Sort of.

He resides in Flagstaff, which follows a different set of rules than much of the rest of the state that draws countless retirees to second homes to enjoy Arizona’s warm winters.

Krugger said he runs better in hot weather, “and then I live in the frozen white north of Arizona. Go figure.”

Hence, the cold and wind that reigned throughout the US Bank Rim Rock Marathon was not new to Krugger, and it didn’t slow him much as he crossed the finish line first Saturday in a time of 2 hours, 56 minutes, 34 seconds. Second-place finisher Kevin O’Brien of Paonia was a little more than 10 minutes behind Krugger, clocking in at 3:06.41.

“It was a tough course, and I do not do well in cold, so that was a good time,” said Krugger, who has run 39 marathons this year and plans to run three more.

Saturday was the first time he has run the Rim Rock Marathon, which is in its fourth year as a marathon after 16 years as a 22.6-mile race going from gate to gate across Colorado National Monument.

He said he chose to run Rim Rock because he could drive to the race, and even the forecast of the cold he despises didn’t deter him.

“What else would I have done on the weekend?” he quipped.

The wind probably was the most annoying factor, and the stretches when runners had to run directly into it did no favors to anyone’s pacing.

“There were points where I’d be jogging six-minute miles, then other times when I wasn’t even eight,” Krugger said.

At least the run was scenic throughout. Krugger said a couple of other marathons he runs are comparable, “but this is way up there for most scenic.”

Evergreen’s Christy McLaughlin was the women’s champion, posting a time of 3:28:34, which was good for 11th place overall and a little more than six minutes ahead of the women’s runner-up, Lillian Dinkins of Grand Junction, who was 17th overall.

The 35-year-old McLaughlin shaved 14 minutes off her time from a year ago at Rim Rock, and although she hoped to finish among the top three women, she did not expect to win the race.

“It helps when the fast ladies don’t show up,” she said with a smile. “I like when that happens.”

One of those fast runners, Keri Nelson, a two-time women’s winner and women’s course record holder of the Rim Rock Marathon, started the race but dropped out after four miles because of injuries, according to race timer Darrin Eisman of Racing Underground.

McLaughlin said she runs about two marathons a year and got into ultra running a year ago in August, so she does more trail running now.

“This kind of feels like trail running,” she said of Rim Rock. “It’s so fun. It’s gorgeous.”

Dinkins, who also has gravitated to trail running, echoed each of those sentiments.

The 31-year-old has run Rim Rock four times, but this year was the first time running it as a marathon. Her first time competing in Rim Rock was as a senior at Grand Junction High School, when she was Lillian Hoffman, running cross country and track for the Tigers. She said she has gotten more serious about distance running in recent years, and she ran her first marathon in June this year in South Dakota.

Dinkins said Rim Rock is special because “it’s in such a nice location.” And although other runners might have wanted a little warmer temperatures and less wind, Dinkins enjoyed that aspect, too.

“I think it’s kind of fun that they keep this in November,” she said. “There’s this unknown piece about what the weather’s going to be.”


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