Shiprock Marathon notes

Shaun Martin, of Chinle, Ariz., will be competing in the race again this year. Martin has won four consecutive Shiprock Marathons and holds the course record with a time of 2 hours, 34 minutes. Martin is an accomplished marathon runner and ultra-marathon runner. He is also one of the speakers at the race's Friday night expo.

The biggest expo in the race's history starts today at Dine College, 1228 Yucca Dr. Runners can start picking up race packets beginning at noon. A pasta dinner will be served from 4 to 7 p.m. and there are also musicians, booths, speakers and a film showing planned for the night.

Several young students, mainly from the Navajo Nation, will be crossing the finish line at the marathon. Tom Riggenbach, the race director, said in recent months students aged 5 to 12 have run 25 miles and they will run their final 1.2 miles the day of the marathon. Riggenbach said the program was created to encourage health and fitness on the Navajo Nation.

Professional Sumo Wrestler Kelly Gneiting, of Fort Defiance, Ariz., will be running and walking the marathon this year and he will also speak at Friday night's expo. Gneiting weighs 400 pounds and is the world-record holder as the heaviest person to complete a marathon. Race organizers are allowing Gneiting to have a two-hour head start on the rest of the field.

The marathon starts at 7 a.m. and the half marathon starts at 8 a.m. There is also a 10-kilometer trail run, a team relay race and a kids race. Riggenbach said the winners should start crossing the finish line shortly after 9:30 a.m. The finish line is near Dine College in Shiprock.

FARMINGTON — The road to next year's Boston Marathon could go through Shiprock.

The Shiprock Marathon is Saturday. And the race is one of many throughout the country that runners can use to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Since the deadly attack at the Boston Marathon on April 15, interest in the Shiprock Marathon increased, race organizers said.

And it's been reported across the country that race directors are seeing an increase in interest in Boston-Marathon qualifying races because people want to be a part of next year's race.

The Shiprock course, which starts in Red Valley, Ariz., and ends near Dine College in Shiprock, shares little in common with the Boston race other than its 26.2 mile distance. The Shiprock course is known for traveling through a beautiful and desolate landscape far different from a big-city course.

But the Boston Marathon bombing is on the minds of runners as they prepare for upcoming marathons, including the one this weekend on Navajo Nation, said Tom Riggenbach, the Shiprock race director.

"We're getting a lot of questions about Boston," he said. "A lot of people don't know how to comprehend it."

Riggenbach said a barrage of runners signed up for the Shiprock Marathon in the last two weeks. There are currently 1,550 runners from 38 states and five countries signed up for one of the events offered at the race. It's a record number of participants

Lee Zhonnie, the Red Valley chapter president who has completed several marathons, said the Boston bombings have inspired runners to keep running.

"I think a lot of people realize (the Boston attacks) are not going to stop me. I'm going to keep going and keep at it," said Zhonnie, who is running a half marathon this weekend. "I've been running for years and no matter what happens it's not going to stop me because I want to stay active."

All marathons require preparations to ensure runners' safety.

Shiprock organizers will have a law enforcement presence throughout the course to block traffic. Medical personnel, who played a key role in treating victims at the scene of the Boston bombings, will be strategically placed throughout the course, Riggenbach said.

"Something like Boston makes you aware of everybody's safety," he said. "But most likely you'll be treating blisters, sunburns and achy muscles."

Ryan Boetel can be reached at; 505-564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel.