Pikes Peak Marathon

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Pikes Peak Marathon
Date August
Location Manitou Springs, Colorado, USA
Event type Road/trail
Distance Marathon and half-marathon
Established 1956
Course records Ascent: 2:01:06 (M), 2:33:31 (F); Marathon: 3:16:39 (M), 4:15:18 (F)[1]
Official site www.pikespeakmarathon.org

The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon is a racing event that begins at the base of Pikes Peak, in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and climbs over 7,815 feet (2382 m) to the top of the 14,115 foot (4302 m) peak. Since 1966, the event takes place each year in late summer, with the Ascent taking place on Saturday (slightly longer than a half-marathon, at 13.3 miles), and the round-trip marathon on Sunday.


Because of the nature of the run (dirt trails, rock, and other natural obstacles) and the high altitude, the race is much more difficult than standard 42.195-kilometre (26.219 mi) marathons. Winning times for the marathon are typically just under four hours (compared to elite "flatland" marathon times of just over two hours). Although the average grade of the slope is 11%, some sections are much steeper because the central portion of the race is relatively flat. The initial three miles (5 km) are very steep. The central 7 miles (11 km) start as rolling terrain, but become progressively steeper toward the end. The top 3 miles (4.8 km) are above timberline and require some rock scrambling to reach the summit. Oxygen levels drop progressively as altitude rises, further compounding the uphill ordeal.

Winning race times differ significantly from year to year, often depending on weather and trail conditions. Some races have been associated with hot, dry conditions, and others have been associated with snow and cold at the top of the peak.

The race attracts hundreds of runners for both the ascent and for the round-trip. The USDA Forest Service limits the number of runners to 1,800 for the ascent and 800 for the marathon, and the race registration typically fills in one or two days.


Matt Carpenter, 42, approaching the summit of Pikes Peak during the 2006 Pikes Peak Marathon. Carpenter reached the summit in 2:08:27 on his way to a 3:33:07 win in the Marathon.

On Aug. 10, 1956, Dr. Arne Suominen of Del Ray Beach, Fla., challenged smokers and nonsmokers to race up and down Pikes Peak, a 26-mile (42 km) race, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the discovery of America's most famous mountain by Zebulon Montgomery Pike. He enlisted 58-year-old real-estate salesman and holistic-lifestyle practitioner Rudy Fahl as the race director. The 56-year-old Suominen, a former Finnish marathon champion and outspoken critic of tobacco, wanted to prove that smoking diminished one's physical endurance. Of the 13 runners that accepted the challenge, only three were smokers. Lou Wille, champion of two Pikes Peak races in the late 1930s and a two-pack-a-day smoker, was likely to be the biggest threat to Suominen's hypothesis. . . .[2]

Although he had beaten Suominen to the summit, Wille was disqualified for not finishing the race. In fact none of the smokers completed the round trip. "I think I've proven my point," Suominen said afterwards. "I finished the race and none of the smokers did." . . .[2]

It was widely rumored that Jecker's motivation came from an American Tobacco Association offer to reward a victorious smoker with a tidy sum of $20,000.[2]

The Pikes Peak Marathon was the first American marathon to allow female competitors, allowing them from the beginning of the marathon in 1956, although no woman entered until 1958. [3] In 1959, Arlene Pieper became the first woman to officially finish a marathon in the United States when she finished the Pikes Peak Marathon.[4] Her daughter Kathy became the youngest competitor at that time to finish the race to the summit; however, she did not finish the whole marathon. [5]

In 1966 a well-organized marathon was initiated, making the race the third-oldest marathon in the United States.[6]

The most successful male and female athletes in the history of the marathon are Matt Carpenter, outright record holder and winner of the marathon on eleven occasions,[7] and Erica Larson, who has won the women's race five times.[1]

The Pikes Peak Ascent race has twice incorporated the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge competition, first in 2006 then again in 2010.[8][9]

See also[edit]


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