By Liz Lightner
It all started when Dr. Phil Gilbertson moved to Lander in 1976. He ran his first marathon in Estes Park, Colorado, and then in the winter of ’79, started the Lander Runners’ Club in his living room and decided to organize a Lander race. At the time, Dr. Gilbertson was on the Board of the Chamber of Commerce and he proposed the idea of a half marathon on the 4th of July, which they eagerly supported, and thus the Lander Half Marathon was born.
Sally Webster, an original member of the Lander Runners Club and the first AND ONLY female participant in the first Lander Half Marathon on July 4th, 1980, described the first race as having silkscreened t-shirts, award ribbons, a mere $5 entry, “timers” with stopwatches, and a grand total of 35 runners. Sally recalls that after the first three or four years, Phil’s wife, Carolyn Gilbertson, and Tom Bowen took over organizing the race.
Sally ran 12 Lander Half Marathons and walked in another three or four. She said the last time she walked with Oakley Boycott – a Lander home-town girl who hit Broadway BIG. They asked aid station volunteer Sue Lee whether or not they were last, and were greeted with a quick reply, “Nope, everyone on their couch in Lander is last!”
Originally, the proceeds were used to run the event and any excess was given to Mission of Mercy, a locally run charity that provides free medical and dental work in Honduras. Four years ago, the Lander Community Foundation, took over the Half Marathon and added a 5K run/walk and new this year, a one-mile kids’ fun run.
Although Phil Gilbertson and Sally Webster aren’t running the half marathon anymore, they still keep active. Phil has logged over 2,800 miles on his bike since January, with 50 of those being ridden during the recent Fremont Area Road Tour (F.A.R.T.).
This past November, Evan Reimondo and Amber Lynn, avid ultra-distance trail runners, formed the Lander Running Club that organizes local group runs. Evan also donated a free training plan for the Challenge for Charities Half Marathon that can be downloaded at http://landerrunning.blogspot.com.
2014 is the 35th year of the Lander Half Marathon and it’s fitting that it raises money for 35 local nonprofits and is now called the Challenge for Charities. Participation has grown greatly from the first year’s 35 runners. Last year, there were close to 650 registrants. The event continues to grow each year, along with community philanthropy.
The Lander Community Foundation organizes the annual event that not only includes the races but also an opportunity for local nonprofits to raise funds from donors that will then be matched by 30-50%. All donations must be received by the July 11th deadline. To register for a race, donate to a local nonprofit, or to become a Challenger at the $500 or above level and have your donations added to the matching pool, please visit www.landercommunityfoundation.org or mail a check to PO Box 1131, Lander, WY 82520.