Record set on 10-mile Cougar Mountain run

July 12, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

Seattle’s John Berta set a new course record on the 10-mile Cougar Mountain Trail Run July 9, completing the race in 1 hour and 15.41 seconds.

Berta, 41, handily broke the previous record of 1:17.28, set by Matt Messner in 2006.

Berta said a group of frontrunners pulled away at the beginning of the race, gaining ground as they ascended the first climb. However, he said he was able to make up ground on the down hills and eventually win the race.

John Berta rounds the final curve out of the woods for the 10-mile course victory July 9 with a time of 1:15.41 in the Cougar Mountain Trail Run series. By Greg Farrar

“A couple guys were real good running through the trees on the flats, but once they hit the downhills on the switchbacks, if you can do those real fast and in control, you can put some real time on them,” Berta said.

Three other runners also broke Messner’s record. Simon Knellwolf, Edward Strickler and Liberty High School coach Michael Smith finished after Berta with times of 1:16.05, 1:17.05 and 1:17.15, respectively.

“It’s organized in a great way,” Knellwolf, 29, said about the course.

Knellwolf, who hails from Switzerland, is living in Redmond for the summer, working for Microsoft Research.

“Usually, I’m running in Switzerland,” he said. “I saw the website for the Seattle runner’s club, and saw that they did the competition, and I’m here. I underestimated the hills, but I liked it a lot.”

Trisha Steidl, of Seattle, was the first woman to cross the finish line, recording a time of 1:33.28.

Steidl, 34, said she was recovering from a calf injury that prevented her from running on slopes for several months. She said the hills were rough, but she said her calf was up to the challenge.

“You can’t ever be unhappy with a win,” she said with a laugh. “When I started, I kind of started out a little slower and tried to be smart so I could be stronger later in the race, because I know the hills are later in the race. But I also knew I had to take advantage of the first part being fairly flat. I had to push that a little bit.”

The youngest of the 168 participants were 14-year-olds Andrew Eason and Ellie Hendrickson, who finished 46th and 51st with times of 1:42.21 and 1:43.23, respectively.

The oldest runner was 67-year-old Dan Chasan, who finished 120th with a time of 2:04.16.

Outdoors Northwest magazine recently named the trail run series as No. 1 for novice runners in the inaugural Gnarliest Trail Running Event Awards.

“There’s enough technical stuff that you can keep it exciting,” Berta said about the course. “It’s when it’s too flat and too much on the roads, roadrunners — they can just smoke it.”

The series continues with a 13-mile race Aug. 13 and a 31-mile race Oct. 30.

The cost to participate is $35 in advance and $45 the day of the race. Seattle Running Club members receive a discount when they register in advance. Register at www.seattlerunningclub.org. Click “Events” and “Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series.”

Of each racer’s fee, $15 goes toward King County park maintenance and improvements.

The July 9 run raised $2,500 for King County parks.

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