Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Salomon is an ATRA member. Photos by Peter Maksimow and Tayte Pollmann.
This past weekend the 64th annual Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon were held in Manitou Springs, CO. On Saturday, runners participating in the Ascent climbed from Manitou Springs, 6,400 feet, and ran up Barr Trail for 13.32 miles to finish at the summit of Pikes Peak, 14,115 feet. Sunday’s marathon followed the same course, but runners turned around at the summit and ran back down to finish in downtown Manitou Springs. Each year, the Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon attracts runners from all over the world. You can read our post-race reports of the Ascent and Marathon.
I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to spectate the Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon for the past two years. Here are some of my favorite things to do as a spectator at this unique event.
Connect With Mountain Running History
Founded in 1956 as a challenge between smokers and non-smokers, the Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent is one of the oldest and most historic trail races in the United States. Over the years, the race has attracted some of the world’s top trail runners and holds the title of “America’s Ultimate Challenge.” Now a part of Salomon’s Golden Trail Series, the marathon continues to attract international attention.
For foodies, the most important part of the Pikes Peak race history are the donuts. The Pikes Peak summit house (14,115 feet) fries donuts each day to sell to visitors. The donut recipe is specifically designed for the extreme altitude and has a secret ingredient to make the donuts extra special. During race day, the smell of these donuts can be detected by runners well below the summit. Ascent finishers should definitely replenish their calories with a donut or two at the summit!
Make sure to stop by the Colorado Custard Company in downtown Manitou Springs, CO. Matt Carpenter, record holder of the Pikes Peak Marathon, owns the shop and scoops the custard. Carpenter strongly believes ice cream is key to his success as a runner and is known for saying, “Ice cream heals injuries.”
Get On the Trail of Champions
One of the best ways to experience the Pikes Peak Race weekend is to hike on the Barr Trail. I had the opportunity during the Ascent to hike from mile 10.5 to mile 13 on the course and cheer-on runners coming up. Getting on the trail allows you to experience some of the challenges participants face, such as the altitude and steep grade, while also taking in the beauty of Pikes Peak.
Meet the Race Organizers and Volunteers
The Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon race organizers and volunteers are some of the most friendly in any race I’ve ever been. During last year’s race in 2018, I spectated the race while walking around on crutches. The race volunteers were supportive of my injury and helped me make the most of my experience.
The Pikes Peak race organizers effectively shuttle over 1,000 runners down the mountain each year for the Ascent and set up an extensive series of hoses to bring water up to the final aid station at 13,300 feet. After talking with many of the race organizers and volunteers this year, I’ve learned that many of them have worked at this race for years. The coordination and positive attitude of these race organizers and volunteers help make this event one I want to return to year after year.
Can’t get to Pikes Peak? You can still see what every inch of the race course looks like on Google Street-view thanks to our Pikes Peak Trekker project.
You can also find complete results for the 2019 Pikes Peak Ascent & Marathon on the race website: