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PP Ascent: New runner inspired by tales of pain and euphoria
One look at the weary faces of Pikes Peak Ascent finishers staggering around Manitou Springs on Saturday afternoon would give most of us pause before lacing up our running shoes.
Not Christina Martinez.
She is invigorated by the sweat, the shaky legs. By runners’ tales of struggling to breathe at 14,000 feet, of getting lightheaded and stumbling over rocks above treeline.
She traveled 1,700 miles to revel in this.
“I’m here to be inspired,” said the first-year runner from Danville, N.J., who recently qualified for the 2013 New York City Marathon.
She looked starstruck as elite distance runners from across the country and around the world mingled and “talked shop” at the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon Expo in Manitou’s Memorial Park.
“This is what I need,” she said. “The energy here is amazing.”
Like hundreds of others lining the course Saturday and Sunday, Martinez also is here to cheer on this year’s runners. A friend from New Jersey, Peter Wasinger, returned to his native Colorado to run the Ascent for the sixth time. He summited Saturday in 4 hours, 10 minutes, 58 seconds.
Wasinger has run the Ascent in the heat and in the cold and in a lightning storm. “One year I could feel the hair on my arms crackle, the storm was so close. I thought, ‘What am I doing up here?’ ”
“But then you finish, and it’s like finishing no other run,” he said. “There’s this sense of euphoria.
“You feel … youthful. You feel like anything is possible.”
Martinez was bubbling with questions for the veteran runners, and they willingly shared their secrets of motivation, nutrition, preparation, perseverance.
“How do you prepare, mentally, to run a marathon? How do you keep going?” she wondered.
“You tell yourself you’re gonna get it done,” said Michele Suszek, of Littleton, a top distance runner who won the 2012 USA 50-Mile Trail Championships in March. You don’t give in to a sore back or tired feet, Suszek said.
In other words, you buck up and finish.
Martinez was almost breathless listening to runners describe the relief and sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a race as grueling as the 13.32-mile run up Pikes Peak. Or the round trip known as the Marathon.
She was stoked, soaking up the vibe.
She was never a runner, she said, but when she moved to New Jersey from Texas 15 years ago, Martinez saw the New York City marathoners pounding the streets and told herself she’d join them one day.
Not long ago she told a friend, a triathlete, about this long-held desire to run.
“He said, ‘What are you waiting for?’ And I thought, ‘He’s right. What AM I waiting for?’ ”
So she started running. Because it’s something to do for herself. Because she likes the camaraderie of runners. Because she likes the way they describe their goals, their quests, their conquests.
“You’re standing there on top of the mountain, exhausted, and you don’t see limitations,” Wasinger said. “You see your possibilities.”
“Ah, I like that,” Martinez responded. “My possibilities.”
“I will be here to run in 2014.”