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Deneke Wins Garden Of Gods 10-Mile

Lauren Kleppin won the women's race.

Lauren Kleppin won the women’s race.

From: Running USA

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A difficult, hilly course proved even tougher with a 20-mile per hour headwind for the first half of the 36th running of the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run on Sunday morning.

Teklu Deneke, formerly of Ethiopia, won the men’s overall title in 54 minutes, well off last year’s winning time of 51:55.

“They were running pretty fast for the conditions out there,” said the legendary Bart Yasso, the Chief Running Officer at Runner’s World Magazine and a celebrity host of the event.

Everyone at Sunday morning’s awards ceremony took comfort in that, including the men’s winner.

“The course was very, very tough,” said Deneke, who has called Flagstaff, Ariz. home since 2011. He ran as a professional marathoner in Europe and Asia before moving to the United States in 2010. “With the wind against your chest, the first five miles were really tough.”

Deneke, 32, surprised most of his competitors, who did not know of his competitive background.

Despite the head wind for the first five miles and a cool start temperature of 57 degrees, he set a good pace and runner-up Benard Langat (29, Santa Fe, N.M., 54:14) did not want to try to keep up. The top area finisher was Ryan Hafer (26, Colorado Springs, 54:25) who placed third.

Defending champion Mario Macias, 30, of Alamosa finished fourth in 54:41. Macias placed second in 2010 in 50:59 in better racing conditions. Fifth place went to Jared Abuya (35, Colorado Springs, 55:11), who set a 35-39 age group event record, besting the mark of 57:33 set by Glen P. Mays by of Manitou Springs in 2007.

For the women, Lauren Kleppin, 23, of Fort Collins, finished first, clocking 1 hour, 3 minutes, 3 seconds, a solid 5:31 ahead of the runner-up.

“My plan was to just take it out really easy and controlled. I knew it was a hilly course – I wasn’t sure how hilly – and I’m glad I did,” Kleppin said. “It was also really windy, but it definitely worked really well and I felt good through the whole thing.”

Kleppin, a Western State College alumnus, earned a career total of nine NCAA Division II All-American honors in track & field and cross country while at Western State. She was also one of the most decorated long distance runners ever to run in Division II, and recorded the fastest ever women’s 10,000-meter run in Division II at 32 minutes, 49 seconds.

Although Kepplin was the most decorated female runner galloping through the picturesque Garden of the Gods, there were many other astounding women at the race.

Second place Kelly Ramirez, 26, of Fort Collins, finished in 1:08:34. And she did it while training only 35 miles a week with little speed work. She said the people around her helped to push her.

“I made some friends and tried to hold on,” Ramirez said.

Rachel Cuellar, 30, of Albuquerque, an expecting mother 15 weeks into her pregnancy, finished fourth among the women in 1:10:41. She has continued training and didn’t want to miss the Garden of the Gods race.

Cuellar said she has been maintaining about 40 miles per week, but refrains from doing any hard workouts to protect her baby. She said she has more energy as she enters her second trimester and plans to run a few more races throughout her pregnancy. She also knows she’ll have to slow down.

Joyce McKelvey, 67, of Black Forest, the women’s 65-to-69 age division winner, said she simply enjoys the environment the race offers.

“There’s a lot more women running,” McKelvey said in regards to the development of women’s running.

There were 665 women that ran the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run this year – a 237 female increase from 1991.

The Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Running series, which also includes the Summer Roundup 12K Trail Run July 9, and the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon August 18 and 19.

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