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As Casper’s Marathon celebrates 20 years, it looks to expand in the future

 A group of marathon runners stands on the pavement.
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
Pacers hold signs showing the pace they run at to complete the half marathon in a specific time for those who would like to follow their lead.

The Visit Casper Marathon celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, with runners participating in a 10K, half marathon, marathon, and marathon relay on June 4. A 5K run sponsored by the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center was held the day before, as was a .262-mile beer run sponsored by Gruner Brothers Brewing.

Bright and early on a Sunday morning, runners for the marathon, half marathon, and marathon relay gathered inside the Ford Wyoming Center, stretching, eating, and otherwise preparing for the race.

 A medal that is printed with "2023" and "Visit Casper Marathon 20th Anniversary" along with the marathon's logo.
Visit Casper
Race finishers received a medal celebrating the marathon's 20th anniversary.

“I just love this Casper Marathon, and I've been up here every year since [it started],” 76-year-old Dennis Fahrenbruch from Culbertson, Nebraska said.

Fahrenbruch has only missed two years of the marathon due to having a heart valve replaced about a decade ago and for his wife being ill. He started running in his early 50s when his daughter did. He’s since completed 69 marathons and numerous half marathons, which he does now.

“I ran marathons until after the heart surgery, [when] I lost some of the endurance,” he said. “And it got pretty tough, so I started doing the halves.”

This isn’t Fahrenbruch’s first race this year, having already run half marathons earlier this year. He’s made a habit of trying to run six half marathons every year and encourages young people to run as well.

“I'm not a fast runner or anything but I try to encourage young people that this is a form of life that keeps you healthy and it's just a wonderful experience,” he said.

Barb Deininger of Douglas is also no stranger to the Visit Casper Marathon. She’s run it every year since its inception in 2003. She ran for Eastern Wyoming College in the 1980s and was introduced to Casper’s event by her husband.

 A group of marathon runners poses for a picture together.
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
Runners from 39 states and two foreign countries traveled to Casper to run the various races. These included runners who seek to complete a marathon in all 50 states and others that run multiple races per year.

“My husband actually encouraged me to get with this group here in Casper, the [Casper] Windy City Striders,” she said. “He heard about it on the radio. He says, ‘You should go join that, you’d have people to run with,’ and by golly, I did… I've been with them ever since.”

Deininger said she’s slowed down over the years and that she’s also cut back on the number of races she once did, though the Casper event is special.

“This is usually my only marathon now,” she said. “Years ago, I did two a year, [and] one year I even did three, but, you know, I just go wherever I can afford to go. This is local so it's handy.”
Runners of all ages and from all walks of life came from 39 states for this year’s event. Among them were two international runners. Rudolfo ‘Rudy’ Martinez traveled with his family from Monterrey, Mexico to run the marathon. It’s their second time in Casper.

“We were here because I had this kind of thing where Wyoming doesn't exist. You've heard this, right? Like nobody knows anybody from Wyoming, Wyoming is you know, in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming doesn't exist,” he said. “So, I was telling Karla, my wife, like, let's go to Wyoming to actually find out what it's about.”

 A large blue blow up arch proclaims "Start Casper Marathon"
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
Runners take off from the start line at the Ford Wyoming Center on a calm morning at 6 a.m. on Sunday, June 4.

More runners gathered as the time approached 6 a.m. when the marathon, half marathon, and marathon relay began, making their way to a parking area on the north side of the Ford Wyoming Center. The 10 K event started an hour later. Race director Marlene Short gave some last-minute instructions before a cannon fired by Wyoming National Guard troops started the runners off.

“I think we had over 400 registered and they were registering up through last night, too,” said race director Marlene Short. “We have actually 127 new runners that have never run this race before, so that's fairly significant.”

Adding new runners is something that Short and the other organizers would like to do, eventually growing it to 1,000 runners. However, more work needs to be done to accomplish that.

“I think we need more people on our committee, more volunteers. We can't put on a race without a lot of volunteers,” she said. “You saw this morning that there were two or three of us wearing multiple hats, and we need more people that are responsible for a specific task on race morning so that we can all focus on that task and not detract from the quality of the race.”

 A traditional cup-shaped trophy for the marathon relay.
Hugh Cook
Wyoming Public Media
A trophy is awarded to the marathon relay team comprised of police and firefighting personnel that completes the event first.

Runners ran along the Bryan Stock Trail and North Platte River, eventually circling back to the finish line just at the bottom of the hill from where they started near Mike Lansing Field. Medals were placed around all participants' necks as they officially finished. For Rudolfo Martinez, it was an accomplishment, though not an easy one, that ended four hours and 47 minutes later.
“There was a hill almost mile 18 or something like that. That hill killed me, and it was just a bigger hill than I was expecting,” he said. “Other than that, I don't know, it was a pretty good race. The weather was perfect.”

Brief periods of rain greeted runners throughout the morning, with a downpour helping some of them as they crossed the finish line.

Martinez ultimately plans on coming back to Casper for future races. His wife previously ran in Casper in 2017 when she was pregnant with their first child.

But next year, the course will be routed differently due to major construction around Casper. Despite having to change things up, the event organizers are already working hard to make next year bigger and better.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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