Runners who endure the 13.1 miles of challenging mountain terrain for the 2nd annual Winter Park half-marathon on Saturday, June 28, will have more than just runner’s high at the finish.
They will also have the satisfaction of knowing that 100 percent of the proceeds from the race benefit the Shining Stars Foundation, a nonprofit that provides therapeutic adventures for children with life-threatening diseases and their families.
Race Director Nicolena Johnson touts the event as a truly local endurance race. Almost half of last-year’s participants were from Grand County, and two of the top three finishers in both categories (men and women) were also locals.
“It made absolute sense to do a race in Grand County. There really aren’t a lot of running events in Grand County… we wanted to do something locally,” she said.
Aneta Williams, a Granby resident who is returning to run the race for her second year, thinks Grand County is the perfect place to compete at longer distances.
“High elevation comes with cooler temperatures,” she said. “I’ve done other half-marathons, like the Keystone half, but I prefer this one. We have wonderful weather at the end of June for this kind of running.”
Williams is one of the estimated 100-250 runners who will compete in the fundraising race this year. According to Johnson, the lack of crowds benefits the participants.
“You’re never going to get caught in the crowd. You are really able to find your pace and your place quickly. Plus, the views on this course are just amazing,” she said.
Registration is still open to runners of all abilities. (Run-walking is allowed.) After a challenging initial ascent, runners are rewarded with rolling hills, twisting single track, and dirt roads through the Grand Park meadow to the finish.
Grand county residents receive a discount of $15 off the registration fee of $60. Students enrolled in county schools run free. Registration fees increase to $75 after June 26. Runners and their supporters are invited to a pre-race party at the Ditch on 40 in Winter Park from 5-7 pm on Friday, June 27.
The Shining Stars Foundation was started by a group of volunteers who wanted to provide outdoor adventures to children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The non-profit has offices in Aspen and Tabernash.
Selected Shining Stars children and their families will be in Grand County starting July 30 for a five-day “family camp.” Provided at no cost to participants, they enjoy much of what the Rocky Mountains have to offer: river rafting, boating on Grand Lake, horseback riding, mini-golf, and a day at the Grand Park Recreation Center, among other adventures.
For Johnson, that is the pay-off for the time she gives as a volunteer race director.
“We hear the kids say, ‘For the first time in such a long time I feel normal.’ We give them a chance to just be a kid,” she said.
Racer Williams agrees. “Knowing that it supports the Shining Stars Foundation is of course, wonderful. It’s very rewarding.”