Saturday, July 20, 2024

‘Every single mile’: Runners finish the Shiprock Marathon

‘Every single mile’: Runners finish the Shiprock Marathon

By Derek Tippeconnie
Special to the Times

SHIPROCK – Twenty-seven-year-old Fruitland native and Navajo tribal member Timberlin Henderson cruised to his second Shiprock Marathon victory Saturday. Henderson started the race in the first group and kept the lead throughout the 41st annual marathon, finishing at 2:44:22. He described the race as a challenging yet rewarding experience, with the support of the local community and the stunning scenery of the Navajo Nation keeping him motivated.

‘Every single mile’: Runners finish the Shiprock Marathon

Special to the Times | Lee Begaye
Shiprock half marathoner Tanner Dugi, 19, from Page, Ariz., finishes with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 48.57 seconds on May 4.

“I started out from the get-go up front, and then (Ryan) Haebe was a couple of meters back,” Henderson said.

With more responsibilities this year, the ultrarunner did not feel as prepared as he had been during his last win in 2022.

“This year, I was pretty happy with my efforts just because I have a lot going on. And my training was just kind of shaky building up to it,” Henderson said. “I was just trying to find as much time as I could for training up for this race and was able to pull it off and do it, so I was happy with it.”

‘Every single mile’: Runners finish the Shiprock Marathon

Special to the Times | Lee Begaye
Angela White, 40, of Tuba City, finishes first in the half marathon during the annual Shiprock Marathon in Naat’áanii Nééz on May 4.

While training for long-distance foot races this year, Henderson is now a board member of the non-profit organization Fundamental Needs, which plays a crucial role in improving the lives of families on the reservation by installing water systems. “We’re gradually trying to expand and implement more water systems as the years go on. It’s a significant endeavor, and it’s really awesome to be a part of that as well,” Henderson shared.

There is no rest for the weary as Henderson plans on running in the Pikes Peak 50-mile race in July.

Naat’áanii Nééz, Toohdi top finishers

Rounding out the top three this year in Shiprock were Ryan Haebe, followed by Héctor Manuel Vázquez Ibarra.

‘Every single mile’: Runners finish the Shiprock Marathon

Special to the Times | Lee Begaye
Timberlin Henderson, 27, from Fruitland, N.M., completes the Shiprock Marathon in 2 hours, 44 minutes, 22.59 seconds, placing first overall on May 4.

Christina Marin won the women’s division at 3:36:03. Bobbi Baur took second, and Aztec native Karen Krob came in third, respectively.

Half marathon winners were Tanner Dugi for the men and Angela White for the women.

With 169 participants in the full marathon and 536 in the half-marathon, the race attracted many racers from all over the country. Complete results of the 2024 races can be found at rm.timing.co.

Co-Race Director Tom Riggenbach commented on how he has helped to try and improve the relatively small race.

“We’ve tried to make it a real positive first-class event with a small-town vibe. For example, we have pacers that help set the pace for runners,” Riggenbach said. “One of the things that’s pretty rare in marathons that we do is have aid stations every single mile of the course.”

Reflecting on the 41 years since the Shiprock Marathon’s inception, some things have changed, including the course design and time of year the race was held. Winner of the 1984 marathon, Vince Sheehan, shared his experience, providing a glimpse into the marathon’s rich history.

“It’s kind of neat that we were able to start on the Arizona side, come across in the New Mexico side,” Sheehan said.

‘Every single mile’: Runners finish the Shiprock Marathon

Special to the Times | Lee Begaye
Christina Marin, 40, of Norwood, Ma., finishes first in the women’s category and 15th overall in 3 hours, 36 minutes, 1.66 seconds during the Shiprock Marathon on May 4.

These days, the course is an out-and-back design rather than the one-way from Arizona Sheehan experienced. The route takes runners through the stunning landscapes of the northern Navajo Nation, with its iconic buttes and mesas. The challenging terrain, including steep inclines and rocky paths, adds to the marathon’s unique appeal.

“We had it way back in October. The day was actually very nice. Good day for running a marathon,” the ’84 winner said.

Sheehan’s race in the second-ever Shiprock Marathon was a tough one. “It was basically a two-man race… we were both feeling it, but by 22 miles, I finally broke him.” Sheehan said.

Sheehan finished that day with a winning time 2:29:49, according to arrs.run, which has the historical records of previous Shiprock Marathon winners.

Despite the many changes, the ability to draw spectators and talented runners to this unique location remains.

“It was such an interesting course because there’s really nothing out there, but the buttes and mesas keeps your mind down on the course,” Sheehan said.

The relatively low cost of being able to attend the marathon for locals is also a significant attribute.

“It’s a real first-class marathon, and yet you don’t have to go far from home and spend a lot of money traveling and hotels; it’s right here in our own backyard,” Riggenbach said. The marathon not only provides a world-class sporting event but also boosts the local economy and promotes community engagement. The event also raises funds for local charities and organizations, contributing to the overall well-being of the community.

Timberlin Henderson described why he is drawn to this marathon.

“My community around here, they don’t really get to see me race physically as well. So that’s one of the reasons to do that race. I’m always racing in Colorado or Utah or California,” Henderson said. “That’s the one race where it’s a twenty-minute drive.”

Information: Shiprock Marathon, navajoyes.org.


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