COVID-19 Can’t Stop Four Decades of the Kendall Mountain Run

After a long absence from racing, I finally toed the starting line at the 43rd annual Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton, Colorado. This historic event, inspired from a 1908 bar bet by miner Neil McQuieg who said he could run from the town of Silverton to the top of the nearby Kendall Mountain, 13,066 feet, and back in less than an hour and a half. He lost the bet by only minutes, but his legendary run has since inspired this classic Colorado trail race.

I did not plan to race and was initially only there to write and take video the event, but after catching word the day before the race that two spots had opened up, I jumped on the opportunity and found myself racing. This was my first trail race since the 2019 USATF Mountain Running Championships and my first race in the COVID-19 era. In this article, I highlight some of the ways race organizing company and American Trail Running Association member, Aravaipa Running, was able to host a safe and successful event during the pandemic.

Kendall Mountain Run

Avoid Large Group Gatherings With Wave Starts
The race began with a wave of ten elite men, followed five minutes later by ten elite women. Every five minutes waves of ten runners at a time were sent on course. This was my first time running a trail race with wave starts. Due to my last minute entry, I was unable to run in the elite wave and started in the fifth wave, twenty minutes behind the leaders. Overall race placements were determined by chip time, not actual start time, which made me wonder throughout the race how I was stacking up against the field and where I would ultimately place. I tried not to think so much about how fast my competitors might be running and instead treated the race more like a personal time trial. I honed in on a pace that felt right for my fitness and had an enjoyable race experience. Despite not having others to run with and push me, I still felt myself wanting to dig deep and give it my best effort just like any other race. Overall, the wave starts seemed to be effective at spreading out runners on course and I found myself running alone almost the entire race.

Mandatory Health Checks and Social Distancing at the Start line
The Kendall Mountain Run start line was one of the most notable areas where Aravaipa Running took precautions to ensure participants safety. The start line was quarantined and race organizers only allowed waves of ten runners at a time into the starting area. No spectators were allowed inside the starting area. To enter the starting area, runners’ temperatures were checked. Runners in each wave were separated six feet apart and required to wear masks up until they began running.

Kendall Mountain Run Finish

Course Changes to Limit Time on Narrow Single Track
The Kendall Mountain Run course was changed slightly from previous years to promote participants’ safety. In previous years, runners climbed six miles to the top of Kendall Mountain via a wide Jeep road and finished with a short scramble to the summit. Runners then descend the same way they came. This year, runners followed the same route up the mountain, but took a different route off the summit to avoid two-way traffic on the final scramble. The only two-way traffic in this race occurred on wide Jeep road or the streets in town, which made it easy to stay socially distanced from other participants.

What is it Like to Wear a Mask at a Race?
With the recent public health order requiring masks to be worn in public in San Juan County, where Silverton is situated, race organizers required Kendall Mountain Run participants to wear masks at all times, except when running. I found it quite easy to wear a small disposable mask at the start and store it in my pocket while I was running. One could also wear a neck gaiter during the race, but conditions were warm, so I decided the disposable mask was the better choice. Neck gaiters or bandanas aren’t as easy to store in a pocket.

Kendall Mountain Run Start

Looking Forward to More Racing
I was very impressed by the way Aravaipa Running hosted the Kendall Mountain Run professionally and with runner safety in mind. They were clear about what safety practices would take place and Jamil Coury even recorded a race briefing video on YouTube for participants to watch before the race to clarify the protocol and address any questions. I’m happy I chose the Kendall Mountain Run as my first race in the COVID-19 era and it’s inspired me to consider running more trail races this summer and fall. Complete race results are available on UltraSignUp.

Are you curious about how other races are being organized during the COIVID-19 pandemic? See my recent articles about Bryce Canyon Ultras, Bears Ears Ultra and the Vail HillClimb.

[Fun Fact] Did you know that half of this year’s podium finishers took a whiskey shot at the summit of Kendall Mountain during the race? Can you guess who? Hint, I might be one of them! Stay tuned for a video and another article describing my personal race story in more detail and how I came to take a shot at the top!

Kendall Mountain Run Finisher Award

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website.

Tags: , ,