The race was new, but the trails were well known to Ben Payne.
Payne biked south a mile and a half from home Sunday morning and then won the inaugural Garden of the Gods 10K Trail Run, which was added to the event’s 10-mile and 10K road races that were held for the 44th time after being canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19.
“This is my backyard for running,” said Payne, a 2004 Air Force graduate whose long list of running credentials include three consecutive Mountain West titles in the 5,000-meter run and appearances in the marathon at the Olympic trials in 2016 and 2020. “That’s why I chose the trail for running. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
Payne, an Arvada native, who served as a pilot in the Air Force and trained as part of the World Class Athlete Program from 2014-16 is now with the Colorado National Guard and works at NORAD. He and wife Erin have three young children at home, which made the proximity to the trails at Garden of the Gods a godsend during quarantine.
“We both made it a priority to get out and get some fresh air and relieve the stress a little bit,” said Payne, who has made Colorado Springs his home for the past seven years.
The trail run started on the road that enters the park, then split to trails at a point after about a quarter of a mile. That allowed runners to gain spacing and prevent congestion on the trail.
His victory came in 37 minutes, 53 seconds, by more than three minutes over Samuel Dean of Ironwood, Mich., as he crossed the finish line in Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site that was shared by the three races.
Sarah Gall won the inaugural trail race in the women’s division in 52:32. Gall is a former University of Colorado at Colorado Springs track and field athlete who runs a store called The Runner’s Flat in Cedar Falls, Iowa, along with her husband, Scott. Scott Gall also competed, winning the master’s division in the 10-mile in 1 hour, 40 seconds.
Official times were posted by 1,304 racers — 718 in the 10 mile, 396 in the 10L road race and 190 in the trail race.
“It’s such a relief to get out and race and see a bunch of people here happy and maskless and enjoying life,” Payne said. “You can’t beat the scene here. It’s just a great way to spend a Sunday morning.”
The 10-mile race winner was Joshua Kipkorir, a Kenyan native and previous winner of the Singapore Marathon who is now listed as a Colorado Springs resident. Kipkorir finished in 52:30, topping runner-up Ben Schneiderman of Wheat Ridge by 18 seconds.
Nicole Florez won the women’s 10 mile in 1:03:54. The Albuquerque native’s husband, Julian Florez, placed sixth in the men’s race in 54:40.
Matt Roberds won the 10K road race in 35 minutes, 12 seconds, with his twin brother, Richard, coming in second at 36:03. The 20-year-old Roberds brothers graduated from Mesa Ridge on the south end of Colorado Springs and now run at CSU-Pueblo.
Lindsay Dickey of Colorado Springs won the women’s 10K road race in 50:49.
There was a medical incident at the event, with a male runner apparently collapsing on the trail course and being taken by paramedics to a hospital. Race director Michael Phan told The Gazette on Sunday afternoon that he had not received an update on the runner’s condition after he was taken away via ambulance.
Garden of the Gods Race winners
Listed by male and female
Matthew Roberds, 20, Colorado Springs 35:12
Lindsay Dickey, 36, Colorado Springs 50:49
Ben Payne, 39, Colorado Springs (37:53)
Sarah Gall, 42, Cedar Falls, Iowa (52:32)
Joshua Kipkorir, 27, Colorado Springs (52:30)
Nicole Florez, 29, Albuquerque (1:03:54)