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Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon: Volunteers keep races running on time
On the homestretch of a marathon, after running more than 25 miles, sometimes you just need more cowbell.
Doug Stevinson was there to provide it Sunday as nearly 800 people ran, jogged and plodded past the Cog Railway atop Ruxton Avenue in Manitou Springs, about a half-mile from the Pikes Peak Marathon finish line.
“A bit more cowbell can pick you right up,” he said, clanging madly as a runner approached after more than six hours on the trail. She smiled at the sound.
“Oh, you’re a beauty!” Stevinson said, holding out a hand for a high-five as she drew near. Glancing at her runner’s bib, printed with her name and race number, he added: “Oh, Chandra, you make this look easy!”
With a grin and an extra spring in her step, Chandra Collins of Colorado Springs passed, seemingly energized for the final push down the pavement.
“That’s my job: cheerleader,” Stevinson said as he and fellow “Road Marshal of Manitou” Fred Wright hollered encouragement to runners and directed Cog Railway traffic.
Race organizers have honed their behind-the-scenes magic over the decades. It takes hundreds of volunteers to stage a successful event of the scope of the annual Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. You need people to help register runners, direct traffic, sort athletes’ gear. You need shuttle drivers, course marshals, medics and people to hand out cups of water and Gatorade. You need people to fill those cups. And you need people to lug water and cups to remote sites at 12,000 feet and higher.
Pat Lockhart has been one of those people for more than 30 years. On Sunday she stood for hours, handing out finisher’s shirts to exhausted marathoners — and exchanging sizes for runners of Saturday’s Ascent, some of whom had just recovered the ability to walk.
See photos of the Ascent and Marathon at OutThereColorado.com.
“I’ve met so many interesting people; that’s what keeps me coming back,” she said. “You talk to them and hear the different reasons they’re here to run, the different motivations, the stories. You can’t help but want to support them somehow.”
Lockhart shared her duties with Debby Bloch and Kirk “The Admiral” Brown, both of whom have volunteered on race weekend for years, as well as the Bishop sisters — Danica, 7, Jackie, 10, and Alexis, 11. The girls, sporting race T-shirts and caps (their payment for a full day’s work) have come back year after year because they enjoy meeting the runners.
“You should see them when it gets busy around here,” Brown said, “It’s like Pikes Market (in Seattle) with the fish. We’re hollering sizes and they’re tossing T-shirts to runners.”
The long days, often 12 hours or more, are easily forgotten when a joyous runner lifts her arms in triumph at the finish line, the volunteers say.
“We couldn’t put on this race without them,” race director Ron Ilgen said repeatedly throughout the weekend.
The volunteers’ efforts aren’t lost on the runners, either, many of whom breathlessly said “thanks,” as they ran up or down the mountain.
“You’ve got this!” Stevinson cheered as Bobby Hernandez, of Littleton, passed by. “Need some cowbell?”