2020...What a Year, Right?
It feels like a decade ago that the Pikes Peak Marathon staff were meeting in person at small coffee shops downtown to plan the 2020 event, sitting within six feet of eachother, and even once sharing a sip of whatever fancy latte somebody had bought (gasp!!) My how things have changed since March...
By early April we saw many other May / June events cancel, or 'go virtual.' We knew virtual wasn't an option for us... Pikes Peak is Pikes Peak, and running any course other than Barr Trail, to anywhere other than the 14,115 ft. summit, would NOT be the Pikes Peak Marathon. Virtual wasn't an option.
We also knew that we had special circumstances that *might* make it possible for us to pull off our event. The marathon is 'only' 800 people. The Governor had come out saying that we were safest either at home or 'in the vast, great outdoors'... and you can't get more vast or great than Barr Trail. Ron Ilgen, the Race Director, asked me to take on the role of COVID Lead and work with the county and state health departments to see if we could come up with a plan. By late May, we knew that while the Ascent had to be cancelled (largely due to the challenges of having to socially distance in a van on the way down from the Summit, but also the massive construction zone and lack of protection from the elements at the top), we were going to try and make the Marathon a go.
By early summer, we saw more and more events cancel, including the Boston Marathon, which had been held consistently since 1897. We stood by the fact that some of our unique circumstances allowed us to have a fighting chance, making the Pikes Peak Marathon the longest continually-running race still taking place. As staff, we saw the heartbreak as our runners had race after race cancel. We felt it too. We missed our community.
We brainstormed a list of every possible safety measure we could think of... then edited to add masks in July, because those were not a thing before then! Our contacts at the health departments and the City of Manitou Springs patiently listened to all of our ideas, slowly nodded in agreement, and allowed us to keep moving forward.
The encouragement we got from our runners kept us going.
Phenomenal job Pikes Peak staff! So proud of you guys for stepping up.
YES!!!! That's what I'm talkin' about. Let's get it on!
Thank you for all you do!! Looking forward to this event!! Nervous as could be, but looking forward!!
And pretty soon it was race week, we felt good about our plan, and nobody had told us no!
The first day of packet pick-up, I went to the pavilion and saw lines of runners, all wearing their masks, all standing six feet apart. Everybody had signed the mandatory online waiver promising to follow the rules. I was overwhelmed... we seriously have the BEST runners in the country! Nobody was complaining, nobody was angry about rules that they (or we) thought were stupid. Everybody was just happy to have a race!
That excitement and energy and understanding carried through the entire weekend, where the starting field of elite women kept their masks on throughout the first stretch on Manitou Avenue, allowing the Gazette's front page photo to show how committed our entire running community was to safety. Our volunteers crushed the process with moving the waves up through the start, and we actually heard that people LIKED the new start since it didn't cause as much of a bottleneck when they reached the trailhead. And when we saw our finishers come in and mask up as they crossed the finish line, our hearts melted with appreciation. <3
It's one thing to get approval to hold a race, but we were holding our breath as the eyes of the country (world??) were upon us. And you guys, our runners, CRUSHED IT.
I hope that our event encouraged other events to get creative and find ways to make it happen. As runners, we don't just give up. Sure, sometimes you change the timeline of your goal when health or safety is at risk, but you don't just quit. And we didn't quit, and neither did you.
Thank you guys for a safe and successful 2020... and cheers to hoping that 2021 is a bit more normal. We miss you guys and hope to see you in August!
- Keri Hardin, Pikes Peak Marathon Project Manager / 2020 COVID Lead
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