Half-marathon returns to Carson City

When Jeff Mark turned 40 a couple of years back, he decided to start running and try a marathon. The Gardnerville resident accomplished his mission last October when he completed the Biz Johnson Trail Marathon near Susanville, Calif., covering the 26.2-mile distance in 4 hours, 35 minutes, 57 seconds.

But he had no intentions of stopping there.

"I made it to the finish," he said. "I finished with a smile on my face and wanting to do more. That's the whole goal, isn't it?

Mark plans to run two more marathons within the next three months and in meantime, he is working as race director for the inaugural "Escape from Prison Hill" trail half-marathon and two-person relay on April 30 in Carson City.

The race will be held on a highly challenging layout at Prison Hill, starting from Silver Saddle Ranch. Consider the description offered about the race on the Tahoe Mountain Milers/Sagebrush Stompers website at www.tahoemtnmilers.org/:

"The Escape Route: Escaping from Prison Hill is a daunting task ... much like a real prison break. But before you are sent to "prison" you must do the crime! The first part of this course is a "crime." For the first 3/4 mile you will find yourself on a fairly flat, dirt/gravel road that circles the interior of the Silver Saddle Ranch. As you complete this section of the race you get a little sloppy in your work and the authorities begin chase. Life gets a bit tougher here as you begin your initial ascent onto Prison Hill. You begin this section with a climb via single-track onto Prison Hill in an effort to thwart the authorities. For approximately the next 4-1/2 miles you are faced with a series of "small ups and downs" that will begin to test whether or not you even considered training or this event. Finally, you complete this section of the course (by thwarting the local authorities) and begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor ... or so you think. You will now begin a descent along the western face of Prison Hill, approximately one mile. Once here, you continue to "live it up" along the mostly flat terrain for the next two miles, thinking that you will never get caught."

Given the altitude and vertical climbing, this will definitely be one of the toughest half-marathon races to be found.

"The course is beautiful, but it is definitely going to be challenging," Mark said. "It will be a quad, hamstring and calf-burner. It's going to be one of those courses where you need to know how to pace yourself, to know what you can run, and to know when to walk if you have to."

This race could present a 13.1-mile preview for runners who are considering ultra-marathons in the future.

Mark plans to enter the Tahoe Rim Trail 50K/50-Mile Endurance Runs on July 16 at Spooner Lake State Park. Before that, he will run the National Guard Marathon on May 1 in Lincoln, Neb., and the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon on June 5 in San Diego.

He will run the National Guard Marathon one day after the "Escape from Prison Hill."

"As soon as the race is over, my bags will be packed and I'll go to catch my flight to Lincoln. I'll have time that night to check in and go to bed, then I'll get up the next morning and run the marathon," said Mark, who works full-time for the National Guard.

Mark's goal is to improve his marathon time - to 4:15 in Lincoln and to the 4-hour range in San Diego. Not bad considering he only started running seriously within the last two years.

"I ran in high school, but I didn't start running seriously again until I turned 40. I said I wanted to try a marathon because I had never run one before," said Mark, who now runs four to five times a week, with one long run during the weekend.

It was during those weekend runs with the Sagebrush Stompers that the idea for "Escape from Prison Hill" was born.

"Prison Hill is just one of the fabulous runs we do every single week. We run up there so much, we would joke back and forth about, 'Wouldn't this be a good place for a race.' One thing led to another, now we have a race, and it should be a good one," Mark said.

Group runs to help runners prepare for the race will be held on Sunday mornings starting on April 3. The group will meet at 9 a.m. each Sunday at Silver Saddle Ranch, located on Carson River Road.

Proceeds from the event will go to benefit Douglas County Search & Rescue. Course management, set-up and aid stations will be handled by Douglas Search & Rescue. And yes, hard-carved mile markers for the course as well as stone awards tin mugs for age group winners will come from the Nevada Department of Corrections' Silver State Industries.

JESTER'S JOG

The Children's Museum of Northern Nevada will present its seventh annual Jester's Jog Family Fun Run on Saturday, April 9. The event is a 10-K run and 2-mile run/walk that starts at 9 a.m. from the Pinion Plaza Resort Casino. The pre-registration deadline is this Saturday and proceeds benefit The Children's Museum of Northern Nevada to help fund its children's programs. For information, call the Children's Museum at 884-2226.

A program is now available through Lake Tahoe Fit to provide coaching and training schedule for runners and walkers who want to enter a half-marathon or marathon later this year. Sign-ups for the 26-week program will be taken on April 9 and April 16 at 10 a.m. from Bijou Park in South Lake Tahoe. For more information, go online to laketahoefit.com or contact Fleet Feet Sports at 883-3361.

MAKE-A-WISH EVENT CANCELLED

The Make-A-Wish Run and Walk, scheduled for this past Sunday, was cancelled after snow blanketed Carson City overnight.

"There was no way to do it. The snow made the course unsafe, so we had to cancel," said co-race director Tim Tetz, who added that two die-hards still went out and ran the course. "We do have wonderful sponsors and everyone involved was understanding about the conditions, so the (Carson) high school was still able to make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which was great."

n Contact Dave Price at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-1220.

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