In the final year before a change in ownership, the Altra Top of Utah Marathon crowned two brand new victors in the men’s and women’s categories Saturday morning.
Aaron Fletcher led all runners with a 2 hours, 24 minutes, 4 seconds in his first-ever running of Cache Valley’s only marathon, which started at Hardware Ranch and concluded at Merlin Olsen Park. The former BYU distance runner said he was “really happy” with his time, which faster than he expected.
“To come out today and run a 2:24 is awesome,” Fletcher said. “I negative split it, second half faster than the first half, even though the second half has a lot of uphills. So, I’m very pleased with that.”
Fletcher ran the Top of Utah Half Marathon in 2017, winning that race with a course record time of 1:04:46, though he did not run the local half marathon this year.
Finishing three minutes after Fletcher was fellow BYU alum Jon Kotter, who finished the 26.2 miles in 2:26:44. According to Kotter, the two ran 18 of the 26.2 miles together before Fletcher ran ahead to record the only time below 2:25:00.
“We trained together in college,” Kotter said. “We came up here together to run together for a while, to train together, so it’s fun.”
Rounding out the top five for the men were Bashash Walio (2:29:47), former Utah State middle distance and cross country runner Jason Holt (2:34:08) and Matthew Williams (2:35:26). Logan High track & field coach Eric Strand was sixth with a time of 2:36:21.
First among women and 10th overall was Ashley Paulson, a runner living in St. George. Her time of 2:50:35 wasn’t ideal in her mind, but it was enough to get the top spot Saturday.
“I was hoping to get a sub-2:50 today,” Paulson said. “But I was excited to still be able to manage a win out of a 2:50, so I was excited for it.”
Angie Beebe finished second among women (2:58:05), followed by Madison Phippen (3:03:46), Lauren McGee (3:08:42) and Shaunavee Dick (3:13:06).
The TOU Marathon wasn’t the end-goal race for either winner as both plan to run marathons in the coming weeks. Fletcher will travel to Indianapolis, while Paulson will compete in the St. George Marathon. Saturday’s race served as part of a long training schedule.
“I have just been looking for a fall marathon and this one popped out,” Paulson said. “It’s a nice, solid course. It doesn’t have too much of a drop, so I feel like it’s an honest course. So that’s what I wanted.”
As first-time runners of the course, Paulson and Fletcher both commented on the scenic look of the course as fall sets on Cache Valley.
“It’s beautiful coming down Blacksmith Fork Canyon. Just fantastic,” Fletcher said. “Those miles from one to 14 are just gorgeous.”
While the run was the first for the two winners, this race also marked the last under the old management. Ownership will transfer to Troy Oldham, a local businessman who also founded the Cache Gran Fondo cycling event in 2011.
Jeff McMurdie, one of four men who founded the TOU back in 1999, said a primary goal of the event was to promote and support local businesses, which he believes the new leadership will do. Oldham has run the Cache Gran Fondo the same way for eight years, with the vast majority of the race’s sponsors and providers being based in the valley.
“This is a Cache Valley event,” Oldham said of the TOU, “and it needs to have all the Cache Valley representation.”