Jul 2, 2014 - From staff reportsA sports mainstay of the Fourth of July holiday in Fremont County returns on Friday as the Lander Half Marathon sends runners to the streets Friday for the 35th straight year.
From its early days, when the race had 35 entries, the event has grown to an expected 650 participants or more this year.
In an account written for the Lander Journal, contributor Liz Lightner recalled the origins of the event.
"It all started when Dr. Phil Gilbertson moved to Lander in 1976," Lightner writes.
"He ran his first marathon in Estes Park, Colo., 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, Gilbertson was on the board of the Lander Chamber of Commerce. He proposed the idea of a half marathon on the Fourth of July, which the chamber supported, and the Lander Half Marathon was born.
"Sally Webster, an original member of the Lander Runners Club and the first and female participant in the first Lander Half Marathon in 1980, described the first race as having silk-screened t-shirts, award ribbons, a mere $5 entry fee, timers with stopwatches, and a grand total of 35 runners.
'Webster recalled that after the first three or four years, Gil-bertson's wife, Carolyn Gilbertson, and Tom Bowen took over organizing the race.
"Originally, race 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.
New this year is a 1-mile fun run for kids.
"This past November, Evan Reimondo and Amber Lynn, avid ultra-distance trail runners, formed the Lander Run-ning Club to organize local group runs.
Reimondo also donated a free training plan for the Challenge for Charities Half Marathon that can be downloaded at http://landerrunning.blogspot.com."
The Lander Half Marathon now raises money for 35 local nonprofits, not only through the race but as an occasion for local nonprofits to raise funds from donors that will then be matched by 30-50 percent.
All donations must be received by the July 11.
To register for a race, donate to a local nonprofit, or to become a Challenger at the $500 level (or greater) and have the donation added to the matching pool, visit www.landercommunityfoundation.org or mail a check to PO Box 1131, Lander, WY 82520.
Get your copy of The Ranger online, every day! If you are a current print subscriber and want to also access dailyranger.com online (there is nothing more to purchase) including being able to download The Mining and Energy Edition, click here. Looking to start a new online subscription to dailyranger.com (even if it is for just one day)? Access our secure SSL encrypted server and start your subscription now by clicking here.