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Fast times expected at Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon
Read about a local woman who is running the Ascent to honor her son.
Some of the best trail runners in the world have traveled to Manitou Springs to test their legs, lungs and hearts on America’s Mountain this weekend.
Expect some blazing times in both races, sparked at least in part by new cash prizes, including bonuses of up to $5,000 for setting course records.
“When you think about the money, you’re going to pick up your speed,” said Mary Akor, of Hawthorne, Calif., who will run the Ascent in her first visit to Colorado.
The allure of Pikes Peak is a draw in itself, said other runners.
“This is the first American race that I knew of,” said Kilian Jornet, of Spain, who is running the Marathon for the first time. He won the Speedgoat 50K in Utah in late July and is expected to push the pace in Sunday’s race.
About 1,800 people are expected to run the 13.32-mile Ascent, 800 for the full Marathon. Nearly 170 runners will race both.
“Pikes Peak is one of the premier events in the world,” said Max King, of Bend, Ore., who placed third at Speedgoat and is expected to battle Jornet for this year’s marathon crown. “If you’re a trail runner, it’s got to be on your list of races.”
It was unclear Friday whether Manitou Springs runner Matt Carpenter, who holds the record for the Ascent and Marathon, will race this year. His would-be competitors hoped to see him at the start line.
“He always makes you run faster,” said Simon Gutierrez, of Colorado Springs, who has won the Ascent three times.
“There’s a reason it (Pikes Peak) has been dubbed the ultimate challenge,” said Bert Yasso, chief running officer at Runner’s World Magazine, as he introduced the elite runners to an appreciative crowd, many of whom will be running the mountain for the first time. “It’s like no other run you’ll ever do in your life.”
“This is gonna rock!” said marathoner Michele Suszek, of Littleton, who just blistered the USA 50-Mile Championship race in 7:25:41. Expect 2011 World Mountain Running champion Kasie Enman, of Huntington, Vt., and Emelie Forsberg, of Sweden, to battle Suszek at every turn Sunday.
The elite racers’ excitement energized the crowd of “mere mortals.”
“I feel like I’m wading through a sea of inspiration,” said Christina Martinez, of Denville, N.J., who recently qualified for the New York City Marathon and plans to return to Colorado to run the Ascent in 2014.
Kim Dobson, the first woman across the Ascent finish line in 2011 (2:34:07), is expected to try to defend her title Saturday. Anna Frost, Brandy Erholtz and Paige Higgins are expected to try to snatch it away.
Ascent runner Gutierrez, who looks to be in prime form, said he hopes to “place higher than last year” — when he came in third. He also predicts race records will be broken in coming years as elite runners dedicate more time to training on the mountain.
Among his biggest challengers Saturday are Sage Canaday, of Boulder, who won the 2011 Mount Washington Road Race, Rickey Gates, originally of Aspen, and Colorado Springs runners Tommy Manning and Ryan Hafer.
But they should keep an eye on marathoner Jornet, who said the highlight of his trip to Colorado so far has been “enjoying the mountains.”
Jornet ran up Pikes Peak a few days ago to familiarize himself with the trail. The Ascent record, 2:01:06, was set by Carpenter in 1993. On his training jaunt, Jornet summited in 2:20.
Expect some blazing times this weekend.