The Kendall Mountain Run has become an institution in alpine running; a test of world class endurance beasts and weekend warriors. It’s now part of the U.S. Skyrunners series, a genre of rugged high altitude races across the country. Shoulder to shoulder, 200 runners lace up to take on a legend.
It started out as a bet that it couldn’t be done: a dead run from a bar in downtown Silverton to the top of 13,000 Kendall Mountain, three and a half thousand feet straight up, in less than an hour and a half.
The year was 1908, according to the Silverton Standard, and the runner was Neil McQuig,
Bets were placed all over the mining town, and a spectacle was born over the rugged out and back.
In a miraculous feat, McQuig, a 53 year old Animas Forks miner in the mountains north of town, ran to the top of 13,066 foot Kendall Mountain in one hour, seven minutes and forty seconds. It actually took him longer to run down, getting lost twice. He lost the bet, but set a record.
Then along came a young Scottish Canadian by the name of Myron McWright. McWright was 21 and acclimated to thin mountain air. On a good day, he beat McQuig’s record by more than four minutes.
But that wasn’t good enough. He boasted he could do it faster, and a belly full of booze didn’t help his ego.
So when he put down his mug at a saloon, taking another bet one stormy Friday, he started his way up the mountain in the rain and into the snow, according to the story. It was no surprise when he didn’t return. His body was found by a search party early the next morning.
“It’s a classic mountain run,” said race director Jamil Coury of Aravaipa Running. Coury summers in Silverton, and is running the renowned Hardrock Hundred Endurance run. “It gets really steep,” he said about Kendall.
Steep means the last 350 feet of the course becomes an all out scramble to the top.
“People are using their hands and feet and crawling up to tag the summit, He said. “At 13,066 feet, you touch the marker and bomb back down to town.”
It wasn’t until 1975 that another runner stepped up to steal the record. Rick Trujillo of Ouray beat McWright’s record by yet another four minutes. Trujillo’s record on the route he used still stands today.
“There are a lot of elite runners focused on running,” Coury said. “There are a lot of locals from San Juan Mountain towns that want a true mountain challenge. Other people, they see photos from the summit or they hear the legend and they want to see if they can do it.”
Finally, in 1978, Bill Corwin established the modern 12 mile version of the run, and so it has become to remain for nearly 40 years. The $200 dollar bet is now a $1000 prize for first place male and female.
The 2015 Kendall Mountain Run begins at 8:00 a.m. Saturday, July 18