Pikes Peak Ascent Marathon
24 August 2019
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.
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!The races begin in front of the City Hall in Manitou Springs, a city of some 5,000 population, located approximately 6 miles west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. While both races begin in the city (and the Marathon finishes in the city) the majority of both races are run on Barr Trail in Pike National Forest. Barr Trail is a US Forest Service trail that is on the east face of Pikes Peak. The race courses do not use any part of the famed Pikes Peak Highway (which is on the north and west flanks of the mountain).From the Manitou Springs City Hall, the races proceed west on Manitou Avenue for 0.42 miles to Ruxton Avenue. At Ruxton, the course turns west for 0.8 mile to (and past) the Cog Railway Depot to Hydro Street. At this point there has been an elevation gain of approximately 300' for an average grade of 4.5%. At .23 of a mile past Hydro Street, or 1.45 miles total, the asphalt ends, and the course continues on a dirt/gravel road which parallels Ruxton Creek. At the end of the dirt/gravel road, there is a fenced area, and the course stays to the north side of the fence before meeting up with a small trail on the right. This trail, commonly referred to as the “spur trail,” connects to Barr Trail in .1 of a mile. From this point to the summit at 14,115,' the course follows Barr Trail. The width of the trail will vary as will the grade (steepness) and surface (footing).From Hydro Street to No Name Creek is 3 miles with an elevation gain of 2,150' for an average grade of 13.4%. From No Name Creek to Barr Camp is about 3.3 miles with an elevation gain of 1,450' for an average grade of 8.3%. This is the fastest section of the course and even includes several slight downhill sections roughly 1.25 miles above No Name Creek. Barr Camp to the A-frame shelter at treeline is another 2.6 miles and 1,800' in elevation gain for an average grade of 13.1%. From the A-frame to finish/turnaround (~14,050') is about 3.1 miles with an elevation gain of 2,050' for an average grade of 12.4%.Basically, The marathon is an out and back course.
Nearby parking is limited so plan your travel time accordingly so you make the 7am race start. By 5am on both Saturday and Sunday, Manitou Avenue will be closed to all traffic 1/2 mile east of the start and 1/4 mile to the west. There is no parking on Manitou Avenue in the closed areas or between the start and Ruxton Ave. Cars in violation of notices will be towed by Manitou Springs Police Department!
At the Spur trail and the Incline overlook, we will provide water and Gatorade. There will be water, Gatorade, energy bars, fruit, cookies, and pretzels at No Name Creek, Bobs Road, Barr Camp, A-Frame, Cirque, and the finish of each race. Should you need special nourishment, carry what you might need. Runners are encouraged to take in as much fluid as possible, not only water, but electrolyte replacement drinks.
Everyone who beats the race cut-off times (Ascent: 6h30m, Marathon 10hs) will receive a finisher medal and Jacket.
Ascent: 6h30m, Marathon 10hs