50-Year Reunion of 1968 Olympic Marathon Trials

The stone marker to commemorate the 1968 Olympic Marathon Trials sits proudly outside Rex Field. (photo courtesy ASU)

ALAMOSA — The names that put distance running and high-altitude training on the map will return to Alamosa and Adams State University this summer to mark 50 years since the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials were held Aug. 18, 1968, in this high-altitude city. An 8K run for all comers is scheduled for Saturday, July 28.

Frank Shorter, Billy Mills, Amby Burfoot, Bill Clark, Hal Higdon and other U.S. distance running greats will join U.S. Hall of Fame running coach Joe I. Vigil for a 50-year reunion to reflect on what became the start of a running boom in the United States and an emphasis on the benefits of training at high altitude such as Alamosa’s 7,544-foot elevation.

The fact that Alamosa had a similar altitude as 1968 Olympic Games host Mexico City brought the nation’s best marathon runners here to train, and convinced the AAU Long Distance Running Committee to hold the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in Alamosa.

With Vigil and co-director Buddy Edelen organizing the training and marathon events, the seeds also were planted for the development of one of America’s most successful collegiate distance running programs. With 54 running national championships – men and women combined – Adams State is unequaled by any school in any sport in any collegiate division.

Adams State University Track and Field Director Damon Martin will play host for the three-day event. Martin succeeded Vigil at the helm of one of the premier running programs in the United States, and has carved a legacy with his own impressive string of coaching men’s and women’s national title teams at Adams State. It has been the combined result of Vigil and Martin’s run of national titles at Adams State that has established Alamosa as the “City of Champions.”

On Saturday morning, July 28, the runners will participate in an 8K run that largely follows the same marathon course Alamosa set up for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Marathon trials. That evening, a banquet will be held at Adams State to honor the running legends and recognize Alamosa and Adams State’s role in making popular high-altitude training.

Six-time Pikes Peak marathon champion Steve Gauchpin, also known as the “King of the Mountain,” is expected to participate in the 1968 reunion. So are Burfoot and Clark, who finished first and second, respectively, in the 1968 Boston Marathon. Masters running legend Jan Frisbe is expected to attend the Alamosa reunion, as is Dave Costill, one of the pioneers of research on runners and director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University.

Other legends coming in for the event include Deana Kastor, who trained under Vigil in Alamosa and earned a bronze medal in the marathon during the 2004 Athens Olympics; Steve Basley, co-founder of the popular Bolder Boulder; and Steve Jones, who ran 2:08:05 to break the world marathon record at the 1984 Chicago Marathon.

Shorter, who won gold in the 1972 Olympic Games marathon, will be among the running stars returning to Alamosa. Another will be the legendary Mills, the Lakota Sioux runner who became the first American to win the gold medal in the 10,000-meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

It literally will be a who’s-who of the running world descending on Alamosa for the 50-year reunion of the Alamosa Marathon. Registration for the July 28 8K run is available by emailing [email protected] or visit www.asugrizzlies.com.