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Toppenberg an avid runner after late start in sport
David Toppenberg didn't start running until he was in his 30s, but now the 40-something Riverton man is a familiar competitor in the Lander Half Marathon and other distance races in the state. File photo/Wayne Nicholls

Lander Half Marathon

Jul 3, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

Toppenberg an avid participant after late start in sport

David Toppenberg competes in the annual Lander Half Marathon for a simple reason.

"To stay fit," he said.

The Riverton runner has made the Fourth of July race a summer tradition.

"I try to put in at least 10 to 12 weeks of training for the race," Toppenberg said, "ranging from eight to 12 hours per week."

The race is 13.1 miles long.

"For me, the Lander Half Marathon is hard," Toppenberg said. "Those last couple of miles become very long. At that point your mental toughness is put to the test."

Toppenberg has missed the Lander Half Marathon just twice in the past 11 years.

"I did not start running until my mid-30s, but I remember thinking I would never be able to even run a 5k," Toppenberg said. "Now, I have run half marathons for over 10 years."

Toppenberg gives a lot of credit to a coworker, Chuck Schuster, for keeping him in shape.

"His subtle inspiration over the years has encouraged me to keep going. We talk about how great it is to see more and more people getting out and just doing stuff like running, biking, swimming and hiking. I also hope I might be leading by example and inspire others to challenge themselves and enjoy the feeling of finishing."

The career best for Toppenberg in the Lander Half Marathon is 1:32.30.

"The 40-and-over group in the Lander Half Marathon is amazing," Toppenberg said. "Last year, it seems like there were many more in this age group. Overall, it has grown."

Big day

The Lander Half Marathon is part of Lander Pioneer Days.

"We are thrilled about the race," Lander Community Foundation board member Gary Wilmot said. "In recent years, the event has gained in popularity. It has always been a strong running event. I think that some of the things we have added to the day, in the jump rope competition and the pancake breakfast, have made the Fourth of July a bigger celebration for Lander."

In 2011, officials decided to add a 5k run to the list of events.

"We did it more for a bigger appeal," Wilmot said. "A half marathon is not something that everybody can do. It's not something that families can participate in together. One of our goals is to get everybody involved and everybody out participating."

The decision to do the 5k has been a positive step in that direction.

"It has really been popular," Wilmot said. "We also see a lot of people that we haven't seen before. We also get a lot of young people."

Fun race course

Wilmot said the Lander Half Marathon course is a challenging one.

"The course gains a lot of elevation as it climbs up the Baldwin Creek side of the race," said Wilmot. "I think that most people take that as a great challenge. When you turn the corner on Squaw, you lose all that elevation really fast to the finish. People enjoy that challenge up front, then the quick pace on the way out."

The record for the Lander Half Marathon is Matt Hartsky's 1:12.09 set in 2000.

Wilmot said 100 people have pre-registered for the event. Officials are expecting the field to grow before the race goes off Thursday.

"We usually get another 30 or 50 on race day," Wilmot said. "We should have another good year."

The walkers start their race at 6 a.m.

"It's a long walk," Wilmot said. "Just like the run, it has its own challenge. We start the walk a little bit earlier. The walkers have an extra half hour."

The walking record is 2:15.15, set in 1995 by Pat Loper.

"One of the fun things for me about the walk is that folks are finishing the walk when people are getting ready for the parade," Wilmot said. "There continues to be a good spirit even when the last walkers finish."

Wilmot is pleased with the number of volunteers who help put on race day in Lander.

"This year, we have more than 40 non-profits that are participating," Wilmot said. "Each of those non-profits supplies 20 hours of volunteer time. It's huge. All of those non-profits are involved in getting the race put together on race day. It's a nice way for them to give back."

Race schedule

5:15 a.m. -- Event packet pickup and day-of registration.

6 a.m. -- Half Marathon walkers being.

6:30 a.m. -- Half Marathon runners being.

7 a.m. -- 5K competitive run/walk.

7:15 a.m. -- 5K recreation run/walk.

7:30-9:30 a.m. -- Breakfast.

8:30 a.m. -- Family fun. Jump rope competition for ages 5-12 (registration at 8 a.m.).

9 a.m -- Results and awards.

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