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Strong elite field, belly dancers and Race Expo highlight 37th Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run and 5K

The 37th Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run begins at 7 a.m. on Sunday in Manitou Springs. The 5K race starts at 7:15 a.m. The Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run Expo begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the new Ivywild School, 1604 S. Cascade.

By Tim Bergsten

Brandon Birdsong has forgiven Mario Macias. The elite runners are roommates in Colorado Springs and painful experiences while racing often become fun stories that friends tell again and again for years.

But Birdsong, the soft-spoken and lanky Boulder Running Company/Adidas athlete, will never forget the 2011 Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run, his first trip around the beautiful but tough course.

“Mario talked me into doing it,” Birdsong said. “He said it’s just a 10-mile race. We show up and about five miles in I was like, ‘Oh, Mario.’ I remember thinking I’m not going to finish this race.”

The 37th running of the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run begins at 7 a.m. Sunday at Memorial Park in Manitou Springs. The second Garden of the Gods 5K starts at 7:15 a.m.  The 10-miler is the first leg of the Triple Crown of Running, which ends in August with the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.

This year could be much different for Birdsong who has taken up training with the American Distance Project group and coach Scott Simmons. He finished second in the famous Bolder Boulder 10K citizens race two weeks ago - covering the distance in 31 minutes, 15.27 seconds. He has fresh legs for the Garden of the Gods 10-miler, an event that many veteran runners humorously refer to as “the toughest half marathon in the country.”

And this year the elite field is stacked with fast runners, including Ethiopian Nahom Mesfin, a finalist in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2012 Olympic Games, and Jeffrey Eggleston, of Boulder, who has been selected to run the marathon at the 2013 World Track and Field Championships in Moscow later this summer.

A list of elite entries follows. Members of the media and the public are invited to attend a press conference with the top runners at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ivywild School.

Can Birdsong hang with the lead group? He’s better prepared this year, he said.

“My training partners are great, I’m coming along,” he said. “I was injured for a year, but I’m getting back into it. My fitness is there.”

Running hard and competing is his goal.

“I just want to get out there and compete,” Birdsong said. “Winning would always be good and that’s always going to be in the back of my mind. But I just want to compete and never give up.”

The women’s competition will be interesting with two-time winner and race record (58:49) holder Belainesh Zemedkun, (Ethiopia/Flagstaff, Ariz.), and Christie Foster, an American Distance Project runner, who won the 2012 Phoenix Marathon.

Elite entries
Jeffrey Eggleston – Boulder, selected to run the marathon at the 2013 World Track and Field Championships in Moscow later this summer.
Nahom Mesfin - Ethiopia, currently training in the Flagstaff, Ariz. Was a 3,000-meter steeplechase finalist in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Stephen Muange - Kenya, has a personal best time of 27:48 for 10K. Won the Baltimore Marathon in 2011 and ‘12.  Placed third in the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon.
Ernest Kebenei - Kenya, has won the 2011 Standard Charter Marathon in Nairobi Kenya in 2:10:54. He was also third last year in Baltimore Marathon.
Leonard Korir - Kenya, is a two-time NCAA Champion at 5K and 10K with personal bests of 13:15 for the 5K and 27:29 at 10K. He has clocked 1:01:19 in the half marathon.
Brandon Birdsong – Colorado Springs, runner-up at 2012 Bolder Boulder 10K; Has 5K best of 14:09; and 10K best of 30:21
Belainesh Zemedkun - Ethiopia, Garden of the Gods women’s course record holder at 58:49, and a two time winner, 2009 and 2010.
Abnet Simegn - Ethiopia, finished third in Naples Half Marathon in Florida in 1:14:27, and just this past April at Cooper Bridge Run she ran 33:48 for 10k.
Christie Foster (photo at right) – Monument,  2012 Phoenix Marathon Champion. Personal best’s of 1:14:12 half marathon, and 2:44:42 marathon.

See you at the Expo: Everyone is invited to attend the second Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run and 5K Expo, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday at the new Ivywild School, 1604 S. Cascade. The Expo is free to attend and will offer visitors a chance to tour the renovated Ivywild School, a mixed-use business and community center.
The Expo will include vendors, educational programs, a press conference, and a presentation by former race winner Jon Sinclair, now a renowned and highly acclaimed running coach.
Saturday’s activities begin with the Colorado Running Company Fun Run at 8:30 a.m.
Runners can pick up their race packets as well as pre-register at the Expo, which will be the first big event at the new community facility.  (Runners can also pick up packets and pre-register at the Colorado Running Company, 833 N. Tejon and 9275 N. Union, Wednesday, June 5, through Friday, June 7.)

Expo Schedule:
8:30 a.m.: Colorado Running Company Fun Run at 8:30 a.m. with the American Distance Project runners.
10 a.m.: Expo begins with vendors, packet pickup and race registration
11 a.m.: Matt Mayberry of the Pioneer Museum will discuss the history of the race and The Garden of the Gods.
1 p.m.: Press conference with Tom Berg, founder of the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run, as well as the top runners in the race. (The public is invited.)
3 p.m.: Discussion, with Jon Sinclair, national champion, and one of the sport's most decorated runners.

Run for the gold … or cash: It will be pay day for the top placers in the Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run. The overall men’s and women’s winners will each collect $1,750. Second place is good for $900; third place pays $475; fourth place, $100; and fifth, $50. Not bad work if you can get it.

USATF 10-Mile Championship: The Garden of the Gods 10 Mile Run will also be the USA Track and Field Colorado 10-Mile State Championship. Think of it as a race within the race. Runners who have a USATF license will be eligible to compete in the state championship, which has its own prize money purse. The men’s and women’s winners will earn $250 (it’s possible for the overall winners to collect $2,000 total). Second-place pays $150; third $100. For masters runners (40 and over), the prize money is $100 for first place, $75 for second, and $50 for third.

High-five a belly dancer: It isn’t every day you can go for a run and have your photo taken on the course with a belly dancer, but the Garden of the Gods is not your everyday race. Not anymore.
Runners this year will be treated to a trumpet player who will encourage them up the hill to Balanced Rock with rousing tunes. The course entertainment will also feature Native American dancers, drummers and a bagpiper.

Press info: Press credentials are not required. We want to help you cover the race and have the best experience possible. Here are a few tips to get you started.

•    Cars may not be parked anywhere along the course during the race. The course closes at 6:30 a.m. and opens again at 9:30 a.m. You may be dropped off on course before 6:30 a.m. Walk-in access is available from the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center (1805 N. 30th St.) Walk-in is also available from the parking area at the top of Ridge Rd.
•    Press credentials will not be issued. The start/finish (Memorial Park in Manitou Springs) area is open to all. Interviews may be conducted after runners have finished.
•    Parking is always an issue. The best way to get a good parking spot is to arrive early. There will be parking spots at Tajine Alami, 10 Old Man’s Trail, near the start/finish. There are also places to park at Manitou Springs High School (401 El Monte Place) about ½-mile from the starting line, the Briarhurst Manor (404 Manitou Ave.) and Manitou Springs Middle School (415 El Monte Place). Check http://www.gardentenmile.com/index.htm for more information.

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Beast of a race but it's gonna be fun suffering with over 1500 other people :-)


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