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A New Book Celebrates Flagstaff's Love Affair With A Long-Distance Foot Race In Colorado

Last weekend was the annual Imogene Pass Run in Colorado. It’s a grueling 17 mile race over a steep mountain pass.

This year’s winner was from Flagstaff--a city that has long been obsessed with this race. Some years, close to a quarter of the participants are from Flagstaff.  A new book sheds light on this love affair.  It’s called "To Imogene, a Flagstaff Love Letter: One Town's Long-Distance Romance with an Iconic Trail Run." KNAU’s Steve Shadley spoke with two of the editors Julie Hammonds and Myles Shrag  about the allure of the Imogene.

Shadley: “Thanks for being here…”

Hammonds: “Our Pleasure”

Shadley: “What is Flagstaff’s fascination with this particular event?”

Hammonds: “I found out about it at a team run Flagstaff training run on a Tuesday night. I was running with a friend of mine named Liz Brower. She was training for the Imogene Pass run and my response was Imo-what? Because I had never heard of it before. The more she described it the more I thought there is no way I could ever do something that hard. But, Liz did it and I thought well, maybe I could try it. And, as soon as I said that people came out of the woodwork who had already run it and were happy to give me advice or run with me or trained with me. It became a real group effort to get me up and over that mountain pass.”

Shadley: “Now, I have a question for Myles. Hi Myles…”

Shrag: “Yes.”

Shadley: “Well tell me about your protection to the Imogene trail run. How did you get involved and what was your experience actually participating?”

Shrag: “Well, I’ve run it twice: 2012 and 2013. I was relatively new to Flagstaff then and as you run in Flagstaff you start to hear people talking about it. So, it sounded like a challenge. It sounded like a beautiful weekend and I had a great experience both years doing that. I was the high country running column editor in the Arizona Daily Sun back then and for a few years after that, and so I was involved in the running community, but for me I didn’t really get to imagine Imogene the way the book represents it until after that 2016 run even though that I had run it a few times before that.”

Shadley: “Well, tell us a little more about the book. So, this is a compilation of essays, of writings from local authors and enthusiasts that love to run. What can you tell us? What’s the flavor of this book?”

Shrag: “Well, we’ve got over 70 contributors to the book that have done essays, poems, photos, selfies. There’s an email exchange in the book. All of these different items, some of them very creative, some of them very emotional. All of them really showing the diversity of people we have in Flagstaff in terms of how they go about preparing for a run like this and why its important to them.”

Shadley: “Is there a particular passage that you could share with us from a writer that kind of brings out the theme of the book…that you could share with us?”

Hammonds: “So, I want to read one of the essays that is called ‘Four days, two volcanoes’ and its by a local volcano researcher who’s name is Elise Rumpf. Her essay begins: ‘Four days until my first Imogene. Four days until we all see how months of training, planning and hoping for good weather play out. Four days until we all get an extra heavy dose of that beautiful soul-awakening life affirming suffering we each of us creates. Or, maybe four days until each of us gets snowed out and we get some unanticipated time day drinking in Telluride…”

Shadley: “Alright, I want to thank both of you. Thank both of you for speaking with us this morning…”

Hammonds: “Our pleasure.”

Shadley: “That was Julie Hammonds and Myles Shrag. They’re both long-distance runners promoting a new collection of essays about Flagstaff’s obsession with the annual Imogene Pass Run in southwestern Colorado. 

It's published by Soulstice.