Adrian Stanciu pushed his mental and physical limits over the weekend when he became just the third runner to tackle an incredible double in the trail running world.
The 49-year-old Manitou Springs resident ran the Leadville Trail 100 on Saturday, just a day before challenging himself again by running the Pikes Peak Marathon.
While many would call him crazy for attempting such a double dose of torture, he also certainly qualifies as courageous.
But what is it that compels a man to run more than 126 miles in two days, with the second race including an elevation gain of more than 7,000 feet?
For Stanciu, it was the dream of beating the combined time of Mike Wardian, who completed both races last year in 26 hours, 21 minutes, 52 seconds. That beat the best combined times achieved by Marshall Ulrich more than two decades ago.
“I’ve wanted to do both races since I read Marshall Ulrich’s book (Running on Empty),” Stanciu said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy to beat Wardian’s time.”
After finishing 13th in the Leadville Trail 100 in 20:17:59, he was 58 seconds ahead of Wardian. When Stanciu reached the summit of Pikes Peak on Sunday, halfway through the grueling Marathon, their times were virtually even.
But Stanciu realized he couldn’t accomplish his dream.
“I knew going in that it wouldn’t be easy,” he said. “I realized within a mile or two of the summit that I wasn’t going to do it. I knew I couldn’t run that fast downhill."
He tagged the summit with an ascent time of 4:17:09, then turned for home to finish in 6:53:18. He capped his 126-mile weekend with a combined time of 27 hours, 11 minutes, 17 seconds for the two races, about 50 minutes slower than Wardian.
That still put him well ahead of Ulrich, who completed both the Leadville 100 and the Pikes Peak Marathon in both 1992 and ’93. In 1992, he did Leadville in 22:11 and the Marathon in 8:04 for a total time of 30 hours, 15 minutes. The next year he was clocked in 21:40 and 9:34, for a total time of 31:14.
Beating Ulrich provided some satisfaction for Stanciu, who runs about every day during his lunch hour.
“Without the record, it’s disappointing, but it’s a learning experience,” he said.
Stanciu works for the City of Lakewood and has two daughters with wife Brenda: Kirstyn, 12, and Amy, 11.
He first ran the Pikes Peak Ascent in 2010, and doubled with the Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon the next three years. He ran the Leadville Trail 100 in 2014-16.
When he finished Leadville on Saturday, he jumped in the car and headed home but said he “barely made it to Wilkerson Pass” before he had to stop and napped for about 45 minutes. He got home about 5 a.m. but couldn’t sleep. By 7 a.m., he was at the starting line for the Marathon on America’s Mountain.
An odd coincidence is that a man in the Leadville race asked Stanciu if he could pace him for the last 25 miles. Turns out he had been the “pacer” for Wardian in the last 50 miles in the Leadville race last year.
Even odder was that when Stanciu reached the summit of Pikes Peak on Sunday, he saw the same man who’d paced him the day before.
“His name is Josh and he’s from Vermont,” Stanciu said. “He’s a volunteer on the summit (for the Marathon).”
As Stanciu approached the finish line of the Marathon, disappointed in his time and that he’d failed to reach the goal of besting Wardian, he found solace and joy in something more important.
That’s when his daughter, Amy, came out of the crowd and joined him for the short run to the finish line. He crossed the line, holding her hand, knowing he’d accomplished what only two others had before.