Bart Yasso, right, the "Chief Running Officer" at Runner's World Magazine, kept the conversation moving at the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon press conference. Below right, Kilian Jornet of Spain and Max King of Bend, Ore., will meet in Sunday's marathon.
One thing was apparent at the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon press conference on Friday in Manitou Springs: This is no longer your father’s race. Not anymore.
The lineup included Kilian Jornet, widely known as the best mountain runner in the world; Max King and Kasie Enman, the 2011 World Mountain Running Champions, and Sage Canaday, the 2012 U.S. Mountain Running Champion. They all agreed, the Pikes Peak races represent some of the greatest challenges in all of running.
“When I started mountain running seven years ago, the races that everybody talked about were Sierre-Zinal (Switzerland), Zegama (Spain) and Pikes Peak in America,” Jornet said. “These are the three most important races in the world.”
King, of Bend, Ore., who will race Jornet in Sunday’s 57th running of the Pikes Peak Marathon, said the event stands alone among mountain runs.
“Pikes Peak is the pinnacle for mountain running,” King said. “It’s like the Boston Marathon is the greatest road race, that’s the way it is for mountain running and Pikes Peak.”
The Pikes Peak Ascent women’s race will see two of the top mountain runners in the country going head to head: Kim Dobson, who nearly beat a 31-year-old course record last year, and Brandy Erholtz, the 2010 Ascent champ and a member of the 2012 U.S. Mountain Running Team. Erholtz said the competition is exciting (though she and Dobson are good friends) but the peak is the real draw.
“I love to run uphill and that’s how this race is,” Erholtz said. “Where else can you run to the top of a 14,000-foot mountain. Something magical happens on Pikes Peak. Manitou Springs comes to life and up on the mountain, it’s just a spiritual place where you give your best and the strongest runner wins.”
The Pikes Peak Ascent begins at 7 a.m. in Manitou Springs with the first wave of 800 runners. Wave 2 begins at 7:30 a.m. The top men are expected to finish in about 2 hours and 10 minutes. Dobson and Erholtz could push the race record, which stands at 2:33:31, set by Lynn Bjorklund in 1981.
The Pikes Peak Marathon begins at 7 a.m. in Manitou and finishes at the corner of Ruxton Ave. and Manitou Ave. The top men should finish in about 3:20 to 3:30.
What about the Ascent Bounty?: We asked a few of the runners about the new Ascent Bounty, a prize money structure that will award $5,000 to the first male runner who can reach the summit of Pikes Peak in two hours or less. The woman runner who beats 2:32 will win $5,000.
Michele Suszek (Marathon): “You’re not going to be able to relax on the ascent, but like Kasie (Enman) said, you can’t redline either. And there is definitely that time barrier you need to watch (on the Ascent) to get the record.”
Simon Gutierrez (Ascent): “I think 2:10 is quite doable. My goal this whole year has been a 2:09 something. Training has gone mostly well for the year I think I’m ready to run at my potential. I think there is enough good guys that you’re going to get pulled along to a fast time.”
Mary Akor (Ascent) “This is going to be my second mountain race this morning I went to run it and it was really nice. I’ve been training at altitude in Mexico. So that kind of really helped me today. So I just cross my fingers to do well tomorrow. I just want to break the course record. Hopefully I’ll do it. I’ll have some challenges. It’s really steep you know, but it’s really nice.”
Ricky Gates (Ascent) “I think the bounty for me is untouchable right now. I think it requires exactly what Simon said, extreme dedication and commitment to the mountain. For me, no it’s not an incentive. I’ve raced here twice before and I haven’t raced my best, so for me that’s my goal.