© Pikes Peak Marathon
Brandon Stapanowich, Manitou Springs
Co-Race Director, Barr Trail Mountain Race
It was around 1998 when the high school version of me was flippantly flipping through my dad’s Runner’s World magazine. I was living in North Carolina and didn’t run for running’s sake at the time, so I lacked context for trail running, Pikes Peak, Colorado, marathons, and any elevation over 6,000 ft. Yet despite that lack of perspective, when I turned to an image captioned, “Runners nearing the summit during the Pikes Peak Marathon,” I knew that my eyes were sharing something powerful with my brain. My experience of running at that time was simply as a means to chase a ball, or to chase a person to prevent them from striking a ball, or sometimes as punishment for not doing one of those things well enough. Yet even with my limited perspective on what it would actually take to run to the summit of Pikes Peak and back, there was something viscerally poignant about seeing that picture, enough to where some internal tinder was set aflame. Those gritty runners grunting and grinding on the 16 Golden Stairs moved my soul and gave me the notion that someday, I too would be running on that mountain.
Of course, initially I didn’t have an idea of when or how my goal would come to fruition and no prediction of when I’d actually be running on the mountain. But that’s often how the most ambitious and adventurous goals in life work, at least for me. Start a grand idea, born from little more than unexamined enthusiasm, and commit to it before that fiery feeling of excitement fleets. From there, the steps along the way and all the necessary minutiae that come with it become clearer to identify and act upon. Emotion inspiring execution.
Though the long game was at play, this formula eventually led to my first Pikes Peak Marathon 13 years later in 2011. That race surpassed my expectations. It took my breath away on the way up, a little bit of blood on the way down, and left me with a 26.2 mile-long grin of accomplishment.
Using excitement and curiosity to fuel escapades has led to more quests for experiences on and off of America’s Mountain. These have included a self-created Pikes Ultra (4 round trips completed both in 2013 and 2016), a marathon on the Manitou Incline dubbed the Inclination, the Ultra Inclinathon consisting of 24 hours of round trips on the Incline, completing the Colorado Trail, and pioneering a Colorado Springs Skyline Traverse (linking Blodgett Peak, Ormes Peak, Cameron Cone, Pikes Peak, Almagre, Mt. Baldy, Mt. Rosa, and Cheyenne Mountain).
The downside to this recipe is that, at its nature, waiting on emotion to dictate a goal can be a fickle thing. Deep-set feelings are rarely reliable and typically don’t like to be called upon at a moment’s notice. They require time, cultivation, and a healthy bit of introspective work, before the right idea comes with the right feeling and sticks.
This quandary has been particularly relevant over the past year and many questions arise. When will covid case numbers drop? When will vaccinations rise so that races can happen with regularity? What adventure will stir my soul again? In a time of great uncertainty, when motivation may be a little harder to summon, the Pikes Peak Marathon has once again inspired.
You see, one great thing about this race is the amount of data that has been recorded and is available. Results dating back to 1976 can be found in the annals of internet history. I actually didn’t realize the extent of this until after a conversation with a friend of mine, Wes, but there are age group records for women and men for each individual year of age. Seeing the names and the times representing the very best performances across the age span, in a time when all of our mortality seems just a little closer, has me wondering what I will be like when I’m in my 7th decade of life. Will I still be able to run? Will I still be able to climb mountains? My hope, naturally, is that the answer to these questions is yes. That, on a Sunday morning in 2062, I’ll be lining up on Manitou Avenue, running my way past No Name Creek and Barr Camp and A-Frame. After high-fiving a volunteer, I’ll tip toe between the boulders and back to town, this time without falling. It’ll be at a much slower pace than today, but how wonderful of an experience would that be. So look out 78 year old men’s Pikes Peak Marathon record… I’m starting my training today. And I’m (eventually) coming for you!
- Brandon Stapanowich, Manitou Springs
Co-Race Director, Barr Trail Mountain Race
441 Manitou Ave, Suite 100
Manitou Springs, CO 80829
In 1972 Peter Strudwick did the Ascent in 4:20:29 and the Marathon in 7:02:28. What is so incredible about that you ask? Well, soon after his mother had caught rubella, commonly called German measles, Peter was born with legs that ended in stumps just past the ankles, a left arm that had only one thumb and a finger, and a right arm ending at the wrist.
When Zebulon Pike tried to ascend the mountain that would later be named after him he was turned back by the harsh weather. Many claim he said that no one would ever reach its summit. However, it is generally accepted that he meant on that day, under those conditions. The snow was waist deep and his men were not dressed for it and were out of food.
“Militant tobacco-hating physician” Dr. Arne Suominen from Delray Beach FL, became the founder of the modern day Pikes Peak races when he wrote a letter to the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce in 1956 and challenged cigarette smokers to race him up and down Pikes Peak. 1956 Results