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Run-stopping scenery at the Mammoth Half Marathon

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In my mind, a fast time is the ultimate goal of a running race. I always assumed the same went for everyone else. The 2013 inaugural Mammoth Half Marathon, however, proved me wrong.

The mountain course begins at Horseshoe Lake in the Mammoth Lakes Basin at 8,950 feet and winds throughout Mammoth Lakes ending in the downtown area. Don’t be fooled by the large amount of downhill at the beginning of the race. There are plenty of hills on the backside to go around. New in 2014, a slight alteration to the course adds a scenic loop around Lake Mary, making the beautiful course even more so.

Last year, as 1,000 athletes prepared to head out of the gate for 13.1 miles of running in Mother Nature’s adventureland, Josh Cox (American record holder in the 50k) got the crowd hyped with a little speech. Shortly after, we were off, starting in waves arranged by speed. It felt good to start moving as the early morning air was chilly and the anxiety in my legs had begun to burn.

I began to settle into my pace. As my nerves started to wear off and my adrenaline began to focus on pumping my arms and legs instead, I was able to take in the crowds around me. What I saw shocked me. We were barely into mile one and runners were stopping. Was it the thin mountain air affecting their sea-level lungs? Were they cramping? Only these types of drastic measures seemed like reasons for stopping. When I finally realized what was happening, I had to smile. Each person who stopped was pulling out their cell phone and snapping photos!

There’s nothing like watching someone experience the place where you live for the first time to make you remember how special it is. Of course you would take the time to stop and take a photo of a stunning landscape you had never seen before; even if it meant adding a few seconds to your race time.

The run-stopping scenery had racers taking photo breaks throughout the entire course.

The Mammoth Half Marathon is the brainchild of Susan Briggs, Executive Director of the San Diego Half Marathon, a non-profit 501(c) (3). Four years ago Susan, who lives in San Diego, had the idea of putting on a community event in the sunny city. The goal would be to get people to volunteer and raise funds for good causes. So, in 2012, Susan, with the help of her husband Bob, got the San Diego Half Marathon off the ground.

Olympic medalist Meb Keflezighi, who splits his time between Mammoth and San Diego, was the inaugural starter for the 2012 San Diego race. It was through Keflezighi’s situation that Susan realized the Mammoth/San Diego connection that many people have. So she decided there should be a sister race high in the Eastern Sierra, and the idea of the Mammoth Half Marathon was born.

The San Diego — Mammoth Challenge was what organizers came up with to link the two races. Those who were at the top of their game, approximately 240 athletes in 2013, were able to sign up to run the San Diego Half Marathon in March and the Mammoth Half Marathon in June not only to gloat about basically running a full marathon (who cares if it was broken into two pieces), but to also receive the special San Diego — Mammoth Challenge medal. The challenge was offered this year and, according to www.mammothhalfmarathon.com, it will be offered in 2015 as well, so start thinking ahead.

The second annual Mammoth Half Marathon is being held on Sunday, June 22, 2014. Come experience some run-stopping scenery for yourself. For more information or to register, visit http://www.mammothhalfmarathon.com. There is also a scenic 5K option through downtown Mammoth Lakes.

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