While top cyclists prepare to hit the pavement in the USA Pro Challenge next week and the Leadville Trail 100 race kicks off tomorrow, world-class runners have also come from all over to Manitou Springs to take part in the 57th annual Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent this weekend. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin has this preview.
In the Pikes Peak Ascent, runners race just over 13 miles to the summit of America’s Mountain, with a gain in elevation of 7800 feet. Marathon runners do the same, then turn around and come back down.
Race Director Ron Ilgen says it’s an entirely different type of running than a road race, and calls the competition a "bucket list marathon."
"It’s just the challenge...the beauty of running up there and the sense of accomplishment. When they start, they can see all the way to the top of the mountain. And to think that you’re gonna run all the way up there and for the marathoners all the way back is very daunting."
Ilgen says he’s run the Ascent and the marathon twice each. But 30 year-old Michele Suszek hasn’t run either before. The Littleton resident won the USA 50-mile trail championship earlier this year and is expected to be one of the top women’s contenders in the Pikes Peak Marathon. Part of Suszek’s training has included running portions of the trail and running the Manitou Incline.
"So you know, I kind of have an idea of what I’m getting myself into, and I love it. It’s going to be such a great challenge, and no matter what, no matter my performance, 1st, 2nd, 3rd place whatever that may be, it’s still going to be an awesome experience, a learning experience, and the trail just outdoes the road any day."
Suszek says she has high hopes, and is aiming for breaking the women’s course record, which has stood since the early 80s. The Pikes Peak Ascent takes place Saturday morning with the marathon on Sunday. Ilgen says 2600 runners in total are participating over the course of the weekend.