Stratton, Heinz Tops in Sparse San Cristobal Run

Enthusiasm was high among a smaller than usual number of fast-paced runners taking part in last Saturday’s San Cristobal 5K and 10K Run.
The run, which benefited Lake City Community School, first began in 1981 and has been held Memorial Day Weekend most years, although it was not held last year.
A total of five 5K runners started off at Silver Coin Gulch on the Lake San Cristobal Road for the 3.12-mile jog, concluding with cheers at the Town Park finish line.
In close pursuit were six 10K runners who ran 6.25-miles from Red Mountain Gulch Day Use Area at Lake San Cristobal, also ending at Lake City Park for congratulations extended by race announcer Phil Virden.
Local runners, many accompanied by their tethered dogs, predominated in both races, notable of whom was J.T. Stratton who jogged the entire 5K asphalt route in his bare feet. Stratton was barely out of breath as he eased across the park finish line in first place, time 21 minutes, 53.1 seconds.
Stratton said he hadn’t run competitively in years. He says he typically enjoys the natural feeling of walking without shoes and termed Saturday’s 5K “really not that bad.”
Second place 5K finisher Craig Blakemore, also from Lake City, was joined on the victory lap by his dog, Joe, who has an affinity for — and was apparently powered by — tasty table scraps. Blakemore said he failed to catch up with Stratton, whom he referred to as the “barefoot bandit.”
First place among the six 10K runners was Heather Heinz, from Crested Butte, finish time 54 minutes, 25.4 seconds.
Heinz runs recreationally and was inspired as she lopped along the shores of Lake San Cristobal by the wildlife, including several deer who ambled along the route and osprey which soared overhead.
Second place 10K finishers were two Lake City locals, husband and wife team Justin and Becky Casey, who smiled and casually conversed as they finished the race in one hour, 1.52-minute, accompanied by their dog, Remmy,
Best aspect of the race for Mrs. Casey was “uninterrupted time” with her husband, busy Hinsdale County Undersheriff Justin Casey.
For his part, Casey said he was powered early on in the race by 8-year old Remmy, although the dog lagged somewhat near the race’s conclusion.
Third place finisher in the 10K was perennial San Cristobal runner Ski Zeroski, one hour, 3.18 minutes, followed closely by two exuberant Lake City runners, Joy Pankratz and Sarah Kem, both laughing as they cross the finish line in tandem, time one hour, 11.55-minutes.
Both Kem and Pankratz were finalists in the last San Cristobal 10K in 2016.
On the heels of 5K top finishers Stratton and Blakemore, third place went to a Pagosa Springs, Colorado, runner, Roberta Strickland, who says she visits Lake City on a frequent basis, including past San Cristobal Runs and “always,” she says, in September for the Uncorked Wine & Music Festival.
Strickland, who is active with Senior Olympics in New Mexico, finished Saturday’s 5K in 33.35 minutes.
Rounding out the 5K competitors was another veteran to the San Cristobal event, Dr. Duane Vandenbusche of Gunnison, age 80, who crossed the finish line with a time of 39.42 minutes.
Vandenbusche has competed in over 10 San Cristobal Runs in past years, and during his years as a cross country coach at Western State College, encouraged his runners to take part in the event as preliminary training for other competitive runs.
“I just love it here,” says the exuberant Vandenbusche, “Lake City is one of my favorite small towns in the entire state!”
Despite low runner numbers on Saturday, San Cristobal organizer Mandy Caldon was upbeat. “It’s always a fun race, and next year we’ll have more runners.”