In speed and numbers, Saturday was a record-setting day at the Shiprock Marathon.
Nearly 1,500 runners participated in either the marathon, half marathon, marathon relay or 10-kilometer trail run. And additional volunteers and spectators filled the Dine College's Shiprock campus to cheer the athletes as they crossed the finish line.
It was the largest Shiprock Marathon in the event's 29-year history.
Race organizers increased the caps in the marathon and half marathon events to allow another 150 runners because of the increasing interest, said race director Tom Riggenbach.
"This is our land, these are our people and it's a beautiful place to run a marathon," said Shaun Martin, a 30-year-old man from Chinle, Ariz. who won the marathon in 2 hours 34 minutes and 57 seconds, breaking his previous course record. "Running itself is very close to Navajo traditions. I was taught as a kid the act of running is a celebration of life and everything positive in the world."
Martin is the cross country and track and field coach at Chinle High School and completed the marathon for the fourth time. It's the only marathon he runs every year. He enjoys longer distances.
He set a course record on a 50-kilometer race in Utah two weeks ago and will compete in a 150-mile trail run from Grand Junction, Colo. to Moab, Utah next month.
He runs in Shiprock to support the Navajo Nation's only marathon.
"Running is a great metaphor of life," he said. "I think most people run because it teaches us who we are. It defines who we are at our most vulnerable time."
Robin Halloran, a 38-year-old Durango woman, was the first female finisher in the marathon. She posted a winning time of 3 hours 32 minutes.
Like Martin, Halloran used the Shiprock Marathon as a training race for longer competitions. She wants to complete a 50-mile race in the Jemez mountain and a 100-mile race near Leadville, Colo. this summer.
Dutch Lowe, a 21-year-old Farmington man, won the half marathon in 1 hour 18 minutes and Linnabah Snyder, a 31-year-old Denver woman, was the fastest woman in the half marathon at 1 hour 23 minutes.
The event draws runners for different reasons. Training for longer races, tradition, to relieve stress and to drum up community support and health awareness were all reasons people ran the race on Saturday.
Davina Morris, of Tsaile, Ariz., completed the 10-kilometer race with her 11-year-old daughter, Elena. Davina had never ran before her daughter became interested in the sport but in the past year she's made jogging a habit and is now an advocate for healthy living.
"Diabetes runs in our family on both sides so I want to encourage my family to keep exercising," Davina said.
Proceeds from the race go to NavajoYES, an organization on the reservation that takes Navajo youth on fitness trips and outdoor adventures, Riggenbach said.
The point-to-point course started in Red Rock, Ariz. and the runners followed Navajo Route 13 past the Shiprock Pinnacle and turned north on U.S. Highway 491 and headed to town.
Ron Nelson, a 55-year-old-man from Colorado Springs, completed the marathon in 3 hours 23 minutes. He's competed in the Shiprock half marathon before and uses the event as a reason to plan a trip to the Four Corners region. He was traveling to Monument Valley after the race.
"I like the scenery. It's gorgeous up there when the sun rises," he said. "I tell my friends in Colorado they got to come down here to run in Shiprock."
A unique aspect of the Shiprock marathon are the prizes. All runners that finish the half and full marathon get a medal with Shiprock Pinnacle on it and age-group winners receive decorative pots made by a Navajo woman.
Tom Alford, 74, and his wife, Lynn Alford, 60, each received a pot for placing in their age group. The couple from Las Cruces has been running the race since the 1980s. The couple previously lived and taught in Newcomb.
"One of the reasons we keep coming back is to visit ... to renew friendships," Tom said. "And we've started a collection of pots. We have like 17."