SCHROON LAKE - In 1997, German athlete Simone Stoeppler captured the overall woman's title in the inaugural Adirondack Marathon.
While this is certainly a praiseworthy accomplishment, some might contend that she held an advantage that day by choosing an unheralded debut event for her marathon run.
But that wasn't the case. Stoeppler considered Schroon Lake an afterthought that year - She had been focusing her efforts on the Montreal Marathon, and when the race was cancelled, folks there suggested Schroon Lake as a backup. Stoeppler was mentally and physically prepared for the Montreal course, but like many other disappointed runners, she turned her attention to the Adirondack Marathon.
The 1997 win wasn't a shoe-in, as the roster of runners was quite competitive - and the competition heats up each year, which underscores Stoeppler's accomplishment.
Despite the footrace's increasingly stellar field of entrants, including Nikki Kimball, originally of Elizabethtown and three times Female Ultra-Runner of the Year, Stoeppler's 3:04:08 record time still stands.
Unlike many winners who feel compelled to defend their record in successive years, Stoeppler preferred to let hers stand on its own - until now.
Stoeppler is scheduled to return to the 14th annual Adirondack Marathon on Sept. 25 to defend her title.
During the intervening years, Stoeppler has concentrated on ultramarathons while not working at her job as an employee of Hessischer Rundfunk, a public service broadcaster headquartered in Frankfurt.
She recently insisted she has no illusions of another win.
"I do not expect to break my record after so many years," she said. "I think you get a bit slower when running the longer distances, but I will try to speed up a bit, so we will see."
Stoeppler's definition of slow is relative. She has started for the 100K German National Team 18 times at the World Cups and European Championships. In the process, she won six silver and five bronze medals.
In preparation for the infamous Schroon Lake hills in the Adirondack Marathon, Stoeppler plans on competing in a July marathon in the Swiss Alps. After that experience, the Adirondack venue should be a piece of cake, observers say.
Like many runners participating in the Adirondack Marathon over the years, Simone has been impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the local residents who go out of their way to ensure that each runner has a truly memorable experience. So much so that this time around she is inviting her parents to accompany her for their 50th wedding anniversary. Marathon sponsors said they're honored that Simone has chosen Schroon Lake for their first introduction to America and are excited to see her go the distance one more time.