Pikes Peak Marathon & Half Marathon
Manitou Springs, CO USA
Sunday August 17, 2014

Pikes Peak Marathon Information

The Pikes Peak Marathon is one of the most grueling races that runners from American and around the world can attempt. The race is slightly longer than the average marathon length of 26.2 miles. The Pikes Peak Marathon is about 26.6 miles, but the length of the race is not what makes it so difficult.

The Pikes Peak Marathon starts just outside of the second-largest city in Colorado, Colorado Springs. Manitou Springs at the base of the mountain is the official starting point for the race. The marathon starts on relatively flat ground like most other such races, but then quickly begins a torturous ascent after the first turn. The course rises exactly 7,815 feet above the starting elevation as it climbs to the top of Pikes Peak at an elevation of 14,115 feet. The first 10 miles of the race climb about 6,000 feet. As if this climb were not difficult, the steepest and most strenuous part of the race is the final three miles, in which runners will climb nearly 2,000 additional feet above sea level.

Most major marathons in the United States, such as the Boston Marathon or the New York Marathon are run at elevations close to sea level. The amount of oxygen in the atmosphere decreases dramatically as one rises in elevation. Trees will not even grow at the top of Pikes Peak because of the lack of oxygen.

There are actually two races at the Pikes Peak Marathon. The first is a half-marathon that "only" requires runners to ascend to the top of the mountain. The elevation and a race course that forces runners to gallop over rocks and tree roots for much of the trek make the half-marathon a particularly rigorous race. Those who are especially ambitious can decide to attempt the full marathon that makes a complete circuit up and down the mountain over the same course. The downhill race would be easier if racers had not already run up the mountain. Extreme shifts in climactic conditions are another variable that make the race especially grueling. Snow is possible near the top of the mountain, and temperatures can rise quickly as one runs down the mountain. A runner can expect to experience a 50 degree difference in temperature between the base and the peak. Lightning is another hazard that can concern runners.

The origins of the Pikes Peak Marathon reach back to 1956 as a challenge made by smokers against non-smokers. Not surprisingly, the smokers failed in their objective. Arlene Pieper made history in the 1959 running of the event as the first woman to complete a marathon in United States history. The Pikes Peak Marathon is also significant because of its standing as the third-oldest in the United States. The race is limited to the first 1,800 entrants annually.