Relay team runners take off near the Riverfront Park Clocktower at 6:30 a.m. Saturday on their way to Mount Spokane State Park.
Sharon Carroll ventured out before sunrise Saturday morning to prove that her legs are still strong enough to conquer a mountain.
“I’m turning 70 this December,” Carroll said after finishing a 34.5-mile foot race from the Riverfront Park Clocktower to the top of Mount Spokane.
Twenty-two relay teams and a handful of solo runners showed up to the annual Let’s Climb a Mountain run organized by the Bloomsday Road Runners Club. The race takes participants on a course with a grueling 3,370-foot vertical climb from start to finish.
Carroll was one of 12 to take on the challenge alone.
“I thought I’d just try it one more time as a solo,” she said. Carroll, a seasoned marathon runner, braved the course twice in the ’90s.
She began this year’s race at 4:45 a.m., more than an hour earlier than the official start time, and finished nearly eight hours later.
“I was happy,” Carroll said. “I had a lot more cool weather than the other runners did, so I had an advantage there for sure.”
Participants included runners at all skill levels from their teens to early 70s. Some came for the competition, some for the fun and exercise, and others showed up to train for even longer slogs later this summer.
Eric Cameron, 38, used the race to prepare for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon in August, an event in Colorado that sends runners on a trail with 7,815 feet of elevation gain up to the mountain’s summit at 14,115 feet.
Running up Mount Spokane was tough for Cameron, though, as he spent last week hiking in Glacier National Park.
“It might have been a mistake doing this right after that but it was nice,” he said.
Nonetheless, Cameron finished second among the solo runners in about five hours and 35 minutes.
The first to pass the finish line was Kjell Schioberg, a professional runner from Hamburg, Germany. Schioberg’s time was four hours and 25 minutes, said race director Ron Nutkowitz.
“That’s three years in a row now that he’s won it,” Nutkowitz said.
Nutkowitz corralled about 70 volunteers to help organize the race. Many of them spread out across the course making sure runners stayed hydrated as the temperature continued to rise.
An ambulance crew waited on site in case any medical emergencies occurred, but there were no reports of serious injuries.
The event is normally a fundraiser intended to support high school cross-country teams and youth camps, but for the past three years it hasn’t raised any money, Nutkowitz said. He hopes to turn that trend around soon and eventually participate in the run as he did before he became the race director, although he intends to retain his leadership post.
This story has been changed from the print version. Kjell Schioberg’s name has been corrected and his race time updated. In addtion, Nutkowitz’s future plans have been clarified.