Colorado’s Pikes Peak Apex To Host Trail Running Events

Trail runners and mountain bikers unite! The Pikes Peak APEX, a multi-day mountain biking festival held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will be incorporating trail running races into this year’s lineup for the first time since its inception in 2019.

Pikes Peak APEX is partnering with trail racing event company, Aravaipa Running, an ATRA member who has assisted in creating 5-kilometer, 10-kilometer and 50-kilometer trail races. All three races begin from downtown Colorado Springs at America The Beautiful Park on Sunday September 25, 2022.

For the following interview, I spoke with Micah Rice, executive director of the event, about their decision to include trail races, similarities and differences between mountain biking and trail running communities, plans for the future of Pikes Peak APEX, community involvement/trail building and more.

Photo: Pikes Peak APEX

[TAYTE POLLMANN] Since the first edition of this event in November 2019, your mission has been to put money back into the trails in the Pikes Peak region. Could you talk about the inspiration behind this and how this event has supported trails in the region?
[MICAH RICE] We launched this event with the plan of an endurance sports festival based on the slopes of Pikes Peak. We all know what happened in March of 2020 before we got through our first year, but we still pulled off a mountain bike race in September of 2020 with our plans for a festival on hold. This year we are able to start realizing our original intent of the event with the addition of a 5k, 10k and 50k run. The Pikes Peak APEX presented by RockShox is a project of the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance, a non-profit organization working with outdoor recreation in the region. The PPORA Trail Stewardship Fund is the event’s beneficiary and in the first two years we have already put $25,000 into the trail system with cash awards to Colorado Springs Parks, Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Trails and Open Space Coalition, and Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates. We have also made some smaller donations to some friends groups like Guardians of Palmer Park and Friends of Cheyenne Canyon. We believe that a strong trail system makes for a more vibrant destination for outdoor recreation that benefits multiple user groups, so this is a fund that not only helps the Pikes Peak Region as a destination but also provides great trails for our community to be used year round.

[TAYTE] Our audience is primarily trail runners. What are the perks of this event that trail runners might enjoy?
[MICAH] The 50-kilometer run is unique because it uses the new Sweetwater Canyon and Daniels Pass trails up in Cheyenne Canyon. This is a great race that showcases some of the amazing accessible trails in Colorado Springs because we run right out of downtown and we are on backcountry trails so quickly. The PPORA Trail Stewardship Fund put about $12,000 into the building of these trails last fall so we are excited to be able to use them for both the run and mountain bike ride.

Photo: Pikes Peak APEX.

[TAYTE] Do you find crossover between biking and trail running communities? What led you to add a trail 50K, 10K and 5K to this year’s lineup of races?
[MICAH] We have found many similarities between the trail running community and the mountain biking community. Not only are there plenty of crossover athletes, but we all use the same trails and are passionate about sustaining them. Our goal with the APEX was to create an endurance event with multiple user groups, so it only made sense to have both a mountain bike ride and a trail run. We are partnering with Aravaipa Running to create the running event as they are the experts in this area. Our 5k and 10k runs are mainly to engage with our local community as we want them to enjoy the trails as well as our festival in America the Beautiful Park.

[TAYTE] In addition to racing, there is also a festival and expo. What are some of the highlights of this year’s festival and expo main attractions?
[MICAH] The final day of the APEX will be the festival day and will include the final mountain bike day of racing along with all of the running races. Our festival includes a beer garden, food trucks and we have a stage with live music. We also have auxiliary events like a history bike tour, Kids On Bikes youth ride, and an expo with our sponsors, outdoor-focused brands, and booths from all of our non-profit partners.

[TAYTE] How has this event evolved over the years and where do you see it going from here?
[MICAH] Our hope is that the festival and expo continues to grow. We are also talking with Aravaipa about how to expand the ultra-run into a multi-day stage race like the mountain bike race. We want to be an endurance event destination, but also a community-driven event with something for everyone.

Photo: Pikes Peak APEX.

[TAYTE] How did you decide on the distances for your trail running events? Do you envision having a longer race such as a 100-miler?
[MICAH] This is the first year of the run so we wanted to create something “doable” by as many people as possible. We are the weekend after the Pikes Peak Marathon/Accent so we know of a few people staying an extra weekend for this run. We may well expand the running offerings to include some longer runs—we will continue to look into the demand for that!

[TAYTE] How is the process of designing a mountain biking course different from a trail race? What are the challenges of both or how do they differ?
[MICAH] Any trail that a mountain bike can ride on can be a great trail to run on (not true vice-versa of course). The mountain bike course we use will make for a great run, but the biggest challenge was how to make small additions to the running course so that the top runners don’t catch the back end of the mountain bike race. I am hoping we got it right by adding a few extra sections of running in the first half of the event so that it gives the mountain bikes a far enough head start on the climbing.

[TAYTE] Why is the Pikes Peak region a special place to host this event? Could you describe what the trail running and mountain biking communities are like there?
[MICAH] While there has been a history of mountain trail running here for a long time (thanks to the Pikes Peak Marathon) not many people know about the huge number of trails in the Pikes Peak region. It is mind-blowing what we have access to here and we want to help shine a spotlight on that system. Many of these trails are in great shape and many need help, which is the purpose of our PPORA Trail Stewardship Fund. It is unique here because we have access to a 14,000 foot peak right out of downtown and the network of trails that go all the way around the peak. While there are several quality established events here, we feel there is a capacity for more and we want to help grow the sport.

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