This weekend is the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, the annual race where thousands of runners attempt to run up Pikes Peak (and down again, for the marathon). It’s a serious deal to those who participate, and many spend years preparing to enter the Ascent or Marathon and hopefully get to the top.
One of the bigger challenges is altitude, and serious runners have been known to travel to Pikes Peak and the surrounding mountains several days or weeks before the race in order to camp out and let their bodies adjust to the altitude as much as possible. There is a 7,815 elevation gain from start to summit, and even for those of us who live in the area that’s quite an adjustment when you’re trying to race.
Interestingly, the Pikes Peak Marathon originally began as a challenge between smokers and non-smokers! Dr. Arne Suominen challenged smokers to race him up the peak and on August 10, 1956, fourteen men headed up the mountain. Eleven were non-smokers and three were smokers. Just four runners actually finished the course completely (up the mountain and back down), and all were non-smokers. One smoker, Lou Wille, did actually make it to the top but didn’t do the descent.
The winning time in 1956 was 5:39:58, and the overall record was set by Jon Raveling in 1979 with a time of 5:04:08. Pretty impressive!
You can read more about the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.