Some of the best mountain runners in the world are about to discover what the Pikes Peak Region’s residents have known for more than a century: There’s gold in them hills.
But they’re going to have to run for it.
Over the past year, the Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc. board of directors has worked to bring more excitement and prestige to the Pikes Peak Marathon on Aug. 19, and its sister race, the popular Pikes Peak Ascent, on Aug. 18. These efforts have come to fruition, and with the support of new race sponsors, prize money has grown significantly in 2012.
"We call the marathon America's Ultimate Challenge," said Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc. president Ron Ilgen. "We should offer prize money befitting an event that is famous on an international and national level. And we think our local running community deserves to host and enjoy these kinds of events. This prize money will help us grow this event in terms of sponsorships and competition."
The Ascent Bounty works like this: The first male to complete the Ascent, or Ascent portion of the Pikes Peak Marathon in under two hours will win $5,000. The first female to eclipse 2:32 wins the same.
In addition, there will be a Pikes Peak Ascent course record award of $2,000 for the first male and first female to break the records of 2:01:06 (Matt Carpenter, 1993) and 2:33:31 (Lynn Bjorklund, 1981) respectively. If the course record is broken by running under two hours, the runner will receive the $5,000 Bounty bonus only.
The top four Pikes Peak Ascent cash awards male and female will be doubled to: First place, $2,000; second place, $1,200; third place, $600; and fourth place, $200.
And the Ascent Challenge - $1,000 for the fastest Pikes Peak Ascent time in either the Ascent or Marathon - remains in place.
Any male or female runner in the Pikes Peak Ascent could win as much as $8,000.
In the Pikes Peak Marathon, the first male and female runners to break the course record (3:16:39, Carpenter, 1993; 4:15:18, Bjorklund, 1981) will win $4,000. This prize incentive includes runners who may have also won the Pikes Peak Ascent Bounty.
And marathon prize money has doubled to: first place, $3,000, second place, $1,200, third place, $600; and fourth place, $200.
Plus, for the Marathon, the Skyrunner organization is donating $1,000 for the first-place male and first-place female.
One good run by a man or woman in the Marathon, could pay $14,000.
And this year, a field of runners that includes 2012 U.S. Mountain Running Champions Sage Canaday and Kim Dobson, 2011 World Mountain Running Champions Max King and Kasie Enman, plus many other top runners make the Marathon and Ascent extremely competitive.
But it will be difficult to capture the Bounty times. Nancy Hobbs, executive director of the American Trail Running Association, is familiar with the world's top mountain runners. She is a veteran runner of the Pikes Peak races.
"It will be major-league difficult," Hobbs said. "But there are athletes out there that could do it, whether or not they are coming to the Ascent and Marathon this year is another story. But there are athletes out there that could earn that bounty, without question."