All's well that ends well for Robie winners

Two first-time winners - a former college runner and an Olympian - outlast the field

clangrill@idahostatesman.comApril 21, 2013 

As soon as the 36th annual Race to Robie Creek began, Markus Geiger sprinted to the front.

In a matter of minutes, he was all alone, running ahead of the pack.

"I didn't want to waste time on the flat part, when I could actually run fast," he said. "I was thinking, 'OK, who's going with me?' And nobody did. I thought, 'OK, maybe they think I'm crazy and I'm going to fade on the first hill.'"

Geiger never faded.

The former University of Idaho track athlete won in 1 hour, 14 minutes, 17 seconds - only 69 seconds shy of the course record set by Phil Stephenson in the 1980s. Robie committee member Brian Rencher thought Geiger's time was the second-fastest in the past 25 years.

It was the first time Geiger ran Robie, a half-marathon with a 2,100-foot climb over Aldape Summit and a nasty descent.

"It is a challenge, and I'm glad I did it," the 24-year-old said. "It's greatly organized and it's already one of my favorite races."

So he'll be back?

"Oh, for sure. It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to doing it again," Geiger said. "I've done a few half-marathons before, but none of them are quite like Robie. I don't think there's another run that challenges you like Robie does."

The course challenged Geiger, but it turns out no other runner could. He finished more than 6 minutes ahead of Eric Fitzpatrick, who decided early on he wasn't going to try to match Geiger's pace.

"I was telling myself it's a long race and I didn't want to do anything too drastic in the first couple miles," said the 21-year-old who also was running his first Robie. "I didn't want to run someone else's race, and I definitely didn't think he was going to hold it steady.

"He just killed it, and I couldn't believe it. That's ridiculous."

Geiger trained on the course, and knew a fast start might prove to be advantageous.

"I'm a pretty good downhill runner, so I thought if I got to the top first I would have a pretty good chance of winning,'' he said.

Geiger grew up in Germany and began running at age 10.

He was offered a full-ride scholarship to Idaho and jumped on it. By the time his collegiate career was over, he was the first Vandal to earn first-team All-WAC honors in cross country four years in a row.

He was a multiple WAC All-Academic honoree, and parlayed his electrical engineering degree into a job at Micron.

"My boss was telling me, 'You're going to be famous … after you win Robie,'" he said.

Fame is fleeting. But that Robie win is in the books.


FORMER OLYMPIAN WINS WOMEN'S RACE

Morgan Arritola is an accomplished athlete.

The 26-year-old from Ketchum qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics as a cross country skier before leaving that sport to concentrate on running.

She has since won the XTERRA World Championship 21K in Hawaii and led the U.S. to victory in the World Mountain Running Championships.

In her spare time, she bikes, climbs and swims.

"I dabble. I like to do all sorts of different things. I like to move," Arritola said.

She moved just fine Saturday, finishing as the top female in 1 hour, 27 minutes, 29 seconds.

It was the third time Arritola has run Robie - she finished third in 2006 and 2007. She quickly remembered the challenging course.

"That downhill is brutal, especially because up in Ketchum not many of our trails are open right now, and your legs aren't really ready," she said.

Leg pain aside, she said she enjoyed the pageantry of the day.

"It was the perfect temperature for running, and it's such a great atmosphere out here," Arritola said. "It's always a fun group. Quirky, and I like that."

And so she added another memory to her still-blossoming athletic career, one that includes walking in the Opening Ceremony in Vancouver and finishing in three races (two top-38 individual finishes and one 12th-place relay finish).

"To make the Olympics is one thing, but I had higher expectations for myself," she said. "But not everyone goes to the Olympics and has their best days when they race. It was a hard realization to come to, but that's part of sports."

Clearly when it comes to sports, Arritola has enjoyed many more successes than defeats. Robie was just another example of that.

"I like to win," she said. "And any win is a good win."

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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