Story and photos by American Trail Running Association contributor Peter Maksimow.
“It’s good to be back to racing….I have missed this.” These words were the general sentiments which reverberated among the participants of the 66th installment of the Pikes Peak Marathon (PMM) on Sunday, August 22. Most running events have been postponed or cancelled altogether over the past 17 months, with the ongoing pandemic. Although the 2020 PMM took place, it did so under strict safety protocols and small, staggered wave starts, which were maintained for the 2021 edition. It certainly was a cherished gathering of both adventure seekers and mountain lovers, alike.
There was caution offered at the starting line of the PPM, urging runners to be prepared for the elements above tree-line, since the previous days Pikes Peak Ascent saw freezing temperatures and 40 mph winds for the early finishers, but quickly cleared up after an hour giving way to sunny skies. The weather started and remained cooperative for the entirety of the Marathon, although the mercury rose to the mid-80s for those who were out on the mountain beyond 5 hours.
The heat on the trail came from the blistering pace set by the defending PPM champion and 2019 US Mountain Running Team member from Englewood, CO, Seth DeMoor, as he took the lead before the first mile mark and just continued to stretch it out all the way to the summit. DeMoor reached the turnaround point at over 14,000 feet in an all-time top-ten Ascent mark of 2:06:44. The next closest summit was turned in by 25-year-old Cam Smith from Crested Butte, CO, almost 15 minutes later in 2:21:18. Smith was closely followed by Adam Peterman of Missoula, MT crossing the halfway mat at 2:21:39, Kieran Nay of Monument, CO, followed in fourth with a time of 2:22:22 and David Sinclair of Truckee, CA rounded out the top 5 in 2:22:56.
There was a bit of a shuffle on the descent, however, it was clearly the DeMoor Show, as he finished with a commanding lead–and within two seconds of his 2020 time–stopping the clock at 3:36:33. Peterman who would record the fastest descent of the day, 1:23:33, and place second overall in 3:45:12. Smith would hold on for third, 3:48:57, Sinclair would improve one spot from his 2020 finish placing fourth, 3:52:42, while local, Darren Thomas of Colorado Springs, would secure fifth place in a time of 3:54:23.
The women’s race was equally as exciting, with the return of 2013 PPM champion, 2012 World Long Distance Mountain Running champion and Colorado College alum, Stevie Kremer out of Crested Butte, CO. The friendly Kremer, also known by her trail colleagues as Steve “Sunshine” Kremer, due to her bright and welcoming attitude, returned to America’s Mountain after a six-year hiatus and the birth of her son, Hans, three years ago. In 2013, Kremer narrowly missed the 4:15:18 course record set in 1981 by Lynn Bjorkland, with her time of 4:17:10.
Kremer tucked in behind the early leader of the women’s field, Bailey Kowalczyk (Nederland, CO), but both were closely chased by Allie McLaughlin–Colorado Springs native and hometown hero, a.k.a. Allie Mac–fresh off her win in the Pikes Peak Ascent the day before. Kowalczyk qualified for the US Mountain Running Team at the previous week’s USATF Mountain Running Championships at SkiBowl at Mt. Hood, OR by placing in the top-4. Kremer showed her strength and experience on the mountain by reaching the summit in 2:50:38, over nine minutes ahead of McLaughlin (2:59:49) and about 16 minutes ahead of Kowalczyk (3:06:20). Fourth and fifth to the summit were Lindsey McDonald (Flagstaff, AZ) in 3:16:06 and local Colorado Springs, CO resident, Lauren Puretz, in 3:20:51, respectively.
McLaughlin, the fourth fastest ascender in race history (2:33:42, 2014), planned ahead for a blazing fast descent, as she stashed shin and knee guards at the summit. After falling three separate times in the 2020 PPM, resulting in stitches to her knee and a subsequent infection in the following weeks, McLaughlin strapped on her full-length shin and knee pads and bombed down the mountain in the fastest female split of the day, 1:38:16, looking like a cross between a motocross rider and Tinker Bell. That was not enough to catch Kremer, who took her second PPM win in a time of 4:34:47. McLaughlin secured her runner-up position in a time of 4:38:06, Kowalczyk held on for third overall in 4:56:41, Puretz moved up a position with the second fastest descent of the day, an impressive 1:38:54, to place fourth in 4:59:50. McDonald capped off the top-five in 5:12:53.
The race day concluded in a dramatic fashion with James Snell of Dallas, TX just sneaking under the 10 hour cut-off time in 9:59:59. There were 624 official finishers in the 2021 Pikes Peak Marathon.
It was, indeed, good to be back to racing.
Special thanks to our colleagues Sage Canaday and Stephen Gnoza from MUT Running for media assistance and collaboration on our Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent coverage.
The 2021 Pikes Peak Marathon was also part of the Golden Trail National Series for the United States and Canada.
2021 Pikes Peak Marathon Prize Purse:
1st place male and female = $2,000 each
2nd place male and female = $1,500 each
3rd place male and female = $1,000 each
4th place male and female = $500 each
5th place male and female = $250 each
For additional Pike Peak weekend race coverage read our article Joseph Gray and Allie McLaughlin Victorious at the 2021 Pikes Peak Ascent.