The first known run over Imogene Pass was that done by Rick Trujillo on Tuesday, August 6, 1974, when he ran from Ouray via the pass to Telluride (2:32:57), as a training run for the Pikes Peak Marathon, after a day’s work at the Camp Bird mine. A chance encounter with some Telluride people resulted in a formal race being established. On September 29, 1974, six runners participated in the first “Imogene Pass Mountain Marathon”. Rick was the first to cross the finish line, in 2:21:18.
Although mountain races were few at that time, most were already in Colorado and the fledgling event had to compete to survive. In an effort to balance several factors, not the least of which were conflicts with other races, vehicle traffic on the Imogene road, and the consequences of inclement weather during the event; the race was held as late as September 29 and as early as September 1 during the first five years. Based on the experience gained from these early years, the Saturday following Labor Day was settled upon as the most practical day for the race.
This post-Labor day Saturday has been the day for the Imogene Pass Run ever since. Walking was established as an official division in the IPR in 1989. This “citizens'” division was due to the determination of a certain slow runner who, because she had been made to turn back at the Upper Camp Bird the previous year, had started the race two hours early in 1988 to beat the mandatory turnaround time. The walking division was very popular, especially with the local participants. Unfortunately, it was found that the walking division seemed to encourage people who were not fully prepared to enter the race. This tended to subject both them and the race volunteers to excessive time in the often mixed and occasionally bad weather. Therefore, for safety reasons, the walking division has been discontinued. The mandatory turnaround times at Upper Camp Bird (10:30 a.m.) and the disqualification time at Imogene Pass (12:00 noon) have been adjusted to allow the participants to reach Telluride, at a mild jogging pace, by 2:30 p.m.
The present IPR course, as described above, is slightly different than the original route. The original runnings adhered strictly to the road from Ouray all the way to the pass. The surviving uppermost 600 foot sector of the original trail was first recognized and used as the route for the 1981 race, and has been so ever since. This and the various other shortcuts combine to cut about 0.5 mile from the original route. Also, the original runnings used to start at Ouray’s Main and Third avenue intersection, and end at Telluride’s Main and Oak street intersection. In 1978 Telluride built the present one block long Oak street park, precluding finishing the race on Main Street. Therefore, the finish was moved one block up Oak street to West Columbia avenue, and the start was moved down one block to Fourth avenue.
Until the late 90s, the IPR was considered “18 miles” long. This original distance was determined driving over the pass in a 4×4 and noting the distance on the odometer. In August, 1998, Rick Trujillo and former race director Gladys Mundelius measured the course more accurately by pushing a calibrated measuring wheel all along the presently used course from Ouray to Telluride. This effort resulted in the clarification of mileage points and provided the data used in the above course description. It can now be said with confidence that the IPR course is 17 miles, 2.5 blocks long (17.1 miles).
The Imogene Pass Run has increased greatly in size and importance from its humble origins in 1974. Where once it was an adventure run for a few pioneers, today the race is immensely popular and the number of registered participants is by necessity restricted, due to safety and logistics reasons. From the original field of six, it has grown to encompass more than 1300 participants!