Because the Ascent and Marathon are so unique and so physically demanding when compared to other half-marathons or marathons, having a general understanding of the courses is the key to planning your training. The Ascent or ascent portion of the Marathon can take as long, or longer, than a full …
Because the Ascent and Marathon are so unique and so physically demanding when compared to other half-marathons or marathons, having a general understanding of the courses is the key to planning your training.
The Ascent or ascent portion of the Marathon can take as long, or longer, than a full flatland marathon. In fact, many flatlanders find that it can take much longer! On the other hand, if you have trained in high altitude, it is possible to go a little faster than your flatland marathon time during the Ascent. In general, if you live at altitude, go with your flatland marathon time. Otherwise, add 1/2 hour to your flatland marathon time. The average descent time is about 63% of the runner’s Ascent time. In other words, the downhill is not free, and there are even a few ups on the way down!
Because the Ascent and Marathon are so unique and so physically demanding when compared to other half-marathons or marathons, all runners must first complete a qualifying event before registering.
If the qualifications you provide can’t be confirmed, you will be removed from the race and forfeit your entry fee! You will not be moved to another race, nor will you be allowed to transfer your entry to another person. This is a very expensive mistake, so please avoid it.
Testing the spirit of all Runners
I have ran this race many times. I first ran this race in 1998 and did very well, over the years I have bettered the times and also ran slower. … MORE
I have ran this race many times. I first ran this race in 1998 and did very well, over the years I have bettered the times and also ran slower. The trail, the start, the finish, the quality of the staff and their focus is really fantastic. Now that I am a lot older this proves to be an extreme challenge. Every aspect of this race is covered. The other runners come from around the Nation and the world. A challenge for everyone for sure. For sure the runners are really nice to exchange ideas and information.
Tough challenge but worth the finish
The Ascent is pure incline! Great aid stations, great support all around, just never had amore demanding race. My calves were on fire but finishing was amazing. Considering doing it … MORE
The Ascent is pure incline! Great aid stations, great support all around, just never had amore demanding race. My calves were on fire but finishing was amazing. Considering doing it again
Most rewarding & challenging race!
Elevation is no joke! The race starts at 6,000 feet above sea level and goes all the way to 14,000! Make sure to arrive early if you can to acclimate. … MORE
Elevation is no joke! The race starts at 6,000 feet above sea level and goes all the way to 14,000! Make sure to arrive early if you can to acclimate. I came out 3 days before hand and rested, hiked, biked, and even ran part of the Barr trail before the race. I feel like this is the best thing I could’ve done. And when I was tired and adjusting I listened to my body.
This race had me in tears at the finish line, but truly an accomplishment like no other.
Mixed emotions on completion
This truly is a great race. Going in I knew there would be altitude issues, narrow course (it is, afterall, a trail up a mountain), and the uncertainty of having … MORE
This truly is a great race. Going in I knew there would be altitude issues, narrow course (it is, afterall, a trail up a mountain), and the uncertainty of having not run a marathon in over two years due to the Covid experience. When all was said in done I had finished my slowest marathon ever (not unexpected) but also felt like I had a lot left in the tank versus other marathons (totally unexpected). When speaking with someone that had completed the race before they described it as a ‘brisk hike’. That is what it was. The trail is so narrow there were only a few places to pass on the path and at switchbacks you could sneak around people. Was I gassed at the summit? Absolutely. But not near a dizzy or pass-out level. Could I have been faster with better shoes (ie trail shoes) for the downhill? Absolutely. I was also suprised how easy going downhill was regarding oxygen. I just couldn’t get decent footing going downhill on the loose gravel, sand and boulder hopping. The terrain ranged from asphalt to gravel, sand, pine needles and boulders. I knew it was a trail run going in but the need to stop so those going downhill could climb a narrow section of boulders became frustrating to me. Yes, it helped me catch my breath but it also slowed down those slow pokes, finger pointed at me, trying to meeting the cutoff time. Medal and zip-shirt (too thin to be a jacket) were okay. Expo was small but to be expected with limited participants.
Overall, I would recommend as it is a pretty cool feeling getting to the top of Pikes Peak on your own power. Manitou Springs was also a cool town to visit. But it may be better to just do the Ascent so you don’t have to hassle with crossing paths on the way down with other runners.
This was a dream come true for me! I had saved it for my CO race state and was waiting....well I just decided it was going to be my year! … MORE
This was a dream come true for me! I had saved it for my CO race state and was waiting….well I just decided it was going to be my year! Then COVID hit and I was worried it was not going to be my year……well it was the best year to do it! I had lots of time to train, ran every hill in PA and hoped for the best! It was absolutely amazing!!!! If you are debating….just do it! You never know how you will do unless you give it a try! I was a rock star on the ascent…however what killed me was the downhill! I didn’t train for that and it was hard on my body….but I did it! The town was awesome and just super cute! So much to do, I probably did too much after the race, including the incline and hiking Pikes from the other side a few days later! I guess I’m a mountain junkie;) Loved every minute!!!
Awesome trail race
Tough, tough race for an aging “flat lander” not acclimated to altitude, but super fun challenge. Not doing it again this year but thinking about returning in 2019. Truly an … MORE
Tough, tough race for an aging “flat lander” not acclimated to altitude, but super fun challenge. Not doing it again this year but thinking about returning in 2019. Truly an iconic trail marathon that I will never forget.
The Dream becomes Reality
I daydreamed about doing this up and back down the mountain marathon for years, even back when I wasn't a runner, and getting it done for the first time was … MORE
I daydreamed about doing this up and back down the mountain marathon for years, even back when I wasn’t a runner, and getting it done for the first time was AWESOME! The slogan for the race on their website is America’s Ultimate Challenge, and though an argument can be made that there are many grueling and brutal ultras out there that are harder, that completing this race is no joke. The camaraderie amongst fellow runners was excellent, on the way up in particular, and I now see clearly why so many folks come back again and again to repeat it. There’s a certain element of esprit de corps involved with such a ridiculously uphill endeavor.
I have much love and respect for all of the aid station and Search and Rescue volunteers at various elevations and remote locations on the way. It is truly a testament to organization and the volunteer spirit of the local running community.
This may always be, for the rest of my life, the most beautiful race I ever participate in. If you’ve done it yourself you know what I mean. 10 stars for scenery.
Word of warning to the future participant: I trained on steeply vertical trails for over 3 months to get this done – your own experience may be dramatically different if you do not have the kind of elevation or hills available to you where you’re from. Having said that, I met people from all over the country including sea level, so I know it’s possible.
I’d love to share my lengthy blog article (so long in fact that I needed to do it in three chapters) about this run with you, and invite you to click and leave a comment, too. It’s over 5,000 words, so I kept this as brief as possible for that reason. I did drop a link to it into this review someplace…
Oh, and when you get to the end there’s two really good pizza joints within a couple hundred yards of the finish line. Yes!
Love this run
I would recommend this to any serious runner looking for a challenge. FYI for most, it's not a run but a fast-ish hike. Gorgeous scenery, but very little air after … MORE
I would recommend this to any serious runner looking for a challenge. FYI for most, it’s not a run but a fast-ish hike. Gorgeous scenery, but very little air after 12,000 feet
Definitely Worth The Challenge!
I assume anyone looking to do this race understands the challenges involved - the race has 7800 feet of elevation gain in the first half followed by an equal amount … MORE
I assume anyone looking to do this race understands the challenges involved – the race has 7800 feet of elevation gain in the first half followed by an equal amount of downhill in the second half – but if you’re prepared for it, it is totally worth it. The feeling of accomplishment crossing the finish line after being on the mountain for hours (upon hours, upon hours) is unforgettable! Be prepared for this race to take you about double that of a regular road marathon – but also be prepared for breathless views while running on an extremely well organized and well marked course with awesome aid stations full of volunteers willing to help assist and encourage you in any way they can. The swag in general is awesome, however my one and only complaint is that a race this size should have gender specific shirts!
Slowest Race Time Ever
This race is brutal. No matter what your pace this race is tough. The starting line is at already 6,345 and I live at sea level so I was already … MORE
This race is brutal. No matter what your pace this race is tough. The starting line is at already 6,345 and I live at sea level so I was already a little winded before the race started. The halfway point is at the summit of Pike Peak at 14,115 ft where there is 43% less oxygen than sea level. The average grade is 11%.
That said this is an amazing race. It starts in Manitou Springs Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The views are spectacular and this race is one you will not forget or stop talking about. Instead of the Star Spangled Banner at the starting line they placed America the Beautiful since Pike’s Peak was the inspiration for the purple mountains majesty.
The first decision is what to carry. It can get cold and windy near the top so you want to dress warmly. But the weather can be warmer at the lower levels (88F on my race day). I wanted to carry enough to be prepared but at the same time, the first 13 miles are uphill and I didn’t want to carry any extra weight.
The trail is in good condition up to the tree line at 12,000 ft. After that it gets a bit rocky. The last half mile to the top consists of the infamous 16 Golden Steps which is actually 32 switchback that involve stepping up onto large boulders. Then you turn around and do the whole thing again.
The race was well run. The support stations were well run and although they were close in distance they were far apart time-wise because of my slow pace. On the negative side the shirt was low quality and is already falling apart. But this is still an amazing experience.
Highest finish line in the U.S.
BOTTOM LINE: No race name states its case more honestly or succinctly than the Pikes Peak Ascent. This is a terrific challenge for any trail runner, and a notch on … MORE
BOTTOM LINE: No race name states its case more honestly or succinctly than the Pikes Peak Ascent. This is a terrific challenge for any trail runner, and a notch on your racing belt that will boost your personal “bad ass” rating in the eyes of both runners and non-runners. Pikes Peak holds two distinctions for me that 4+ years later have yet to be equalled: 1) my only half marathon of over 4 hours (a personal worst 4:08:52), and 2) the only event in which my stomach actually reversed gears (i.e. gave back to the mountain) after the race. I still wear both of these achievements as badges of honor.
The Pikes Peak Ascent is a half marathon (actually 13.32 miles) that begins on the streets of Manitou Springs and gains 7,815 feet of elevation on the Barr Trail, en route to the finish line at 14,115 feet. And if one trip up the mountain on Saturday isn’t enough, you can register for the Pikes Peak “Double” in which you run the Marathon on Sunday as well.
For middle-of-the-packers, after the first 1.5 miles on pavement the race becomes a caravan to the top on an oft-singletrack dirt trail. Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to maintain a fairly consistent pace until about mile 8, when I had to slow down for runners ahead of me. I’d been trying to maintain at least a slow jog to avoid walking, since once I stop running it becomes more and more difficult to start again, particularly on uphills. Passing can be awkward-to-impossible at times on the Barr Trail, but what you don’t want to do is pass another runner, only to slow down and have them leapfrog you once again. That’ll earn you some bad trail karma.
According to the Pikes Peak Marathon website, air pressure is 43% less at the summit than at sea level. By mile 11 my red blood cells were betraying their sea-level origins, and my oxygen-deprived muscles had stopped buying what my brain was selling. Once above the treeline (~12,000 feet) my progress slowed to a crawl, and negotiating the “Golden Steps” (i.e. the large boulders blocking the trail in several places) felt like trying to scale the Great Wall. Case in point, my mile 12 clocked in at an impressively sluggish 26 minutes, 55 seconds.
Once above the treeline I also paused to take pictures of the world spread out below, these pauses doubling as convenient excuses to rest. Runners trudging along like diligent, winded ants were visible on the trail above and below my vantage point.
Luckily Mother Nature cooperated with partly cloudy skies all day, which made for pleasant running conditions aside from not being able to draw a deep breath in the last few miles.
My brother and sister-in-law ran the Pikes Peak Marathon the day after I ran the Ascent, finishing in 7:29:52 and 9:55:13, respectively. Apparently my biggest mistake was stopping at the top… he claimed that as soon as he turned around and started his descent, he could feel more and more oxygen entering his lungs with each breath. Admittedly now, four years later, I’d love to go back and test my mettle in the full marathon.
My only regret was that with my stomach in post-race turmoil, I opted not to test it with a “world famous” high-altitude donut from the summit café. Next time…
PRODUCTION: The pre-race expo on Friday was held outdoors in a large tent and was comfortably low key, making it easy to pick up our registration materials and browse the sponsor booths in a short time. And despite the number of runners on the course on race day, only occasionally did the trail feel truly crowded.
I carried my nutrition with me in liquid form and so didn’t take advantage of the aid stations, but they seemed to be well-stocked and well-appreciated by other runners. I also caught a glimpse of several watchful medical personnel along the way. Pikes Peak is not an easy assignment for volunteers – there are no elevators on the mountain, so many volunteers access their aid stations the same way the runners do. And yet there they were on race day, smiling away and – as far as I could tell and from what I heard – seemingly flawless in their execution. Long live race volunteers!
SWAG: This included a standard white long-sleeve technical shirt with purple side panels (gold for the marathoners) that I still wear based on its most important attribute, the solitary number 14,115’ printed on the back; and a small, understated but perfectly acceptable medal.
Toughest race ever for me!
Ran up Pikes Peak with my dad and mom in 1986. My dad took off and left me and my mom. My mom later fell back. I reached the top … MORE
Ran up Pikes Peak with my dad and mom in 1986. My dad took off and left me and my mom. My mom later fell back. I reached the top and was freezing and snowing. Waited for my mom then traveled by shuttle back to the bottom.