When Colorado Springs massage therapist Rachel Jones began trying to rack up big lap numbers on the Manitou Incline a few years ago, the most impressive athletic feat she had accomplished was running a 10k, half of which she said she walked.
On December 18, 2022, Jones became the first woman — and only the fourth person ever — to hike the legendary set of steep, mountainside steps 1,000 times in 365 days. The previous female record was 585 times in a year.
“I felt like it was something that I would have to level up in every area of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially … to be able to accomplish something like that,” Jones said.
The incline is made up of 2,744 wooden steps that long ago formed the ties of a cog railway. It ascends 2,000 vertical feet in less than a mile and ascending it 1,000 times in a year averages out to about 20 times every week. Jones didn’t stop when she hit 1,000 — she climbed it 1,003 times in total.
On top of that, in September her body started undergoing dramatic, unexpected changes, when she discovered she was pregnant.
“Throughout October, November and December, my speed slowed down a lot,” she said. “My endurance cut in half.”
Still, with her doctor’s approval, she crossed the 1,000 mark on her last available day — she started on December 19th, 2021. On New Year’s Eve, she held a celebration on the incline to mark the feat and announce she’ll be giving birth to a girl. Eat your heart out, other gender reveals.
Jones’ accomplishment adds to a community of people racking up serious numbers on the incline. In 2011, Colorado Springs resident Greg Cummings became the first person to hike it more than 500 times in a year. In January 2020, he set the current record of 1,825 ascents in a single year.
The "500 Club" has grown into a group of 26 people, up from 13 at the start of 2021. Hikers use tracking apps like Strava and photos taken at the top and bottom of each ascent to track their reps. The totals are monitored by Cummings and a few friends.
Cummings notes climbing the Manitou Incline 500 times in a year amounts to about a million vertical feet. To put that in perspective, the International Space Station floats just a little higher than that — 1.3 million vertical feet above the earth.
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