This year, the Pikes Peak Marathon was a can't miss event. Though the PPM is one of the country's oldest marathons, it has lived in a bit of obscurity. It's a grueling event as the first 13 miles are entirely uphill with the last 3ish miles resting above tree line where the air is thin and the stomachs grow weak. Runners can be great at the ascending miles but if their bodies don't deal well with the altitude, then performance will suffer. This is what makes the event so exciting and unpredictable. Additionally, runners must be efficient on the quad-killing descent.
Matt Carpenter's name will always be tied to the event. Since the late 80s he has been a force in either the Ascent, Marathon, or in both races (referred to as "doubling"). This weekend his course records for the PPM and the Leadville 100 were under threat. I'm kind of happy that neither of these records were broken, because Matt's accomplishments at both events are something that us young runners should revere and respect. Last year, Matt did not even plan to start the race until he woke up that morning. One of our friends, Dave Corsten, ran the race last year and said that everyone was theorizing about whether he would start the race. Two minutes before the gun went off Matt toed the line and blew away the competition.
Since Matt was so unsure about racing last year, it's no surprise that he declined to race this year. He would have had to face the insanely talented Killian Jornet who, at 24, is in his running prime and it wouldn't have been a fair fight since Matt first started doing this race the year that Killian was born. Over the years, a few of the nation's top athletes have taken on Matt only to be beat in the end. But what made this year different was the depth of talent in the men's field. Top runners Max King, Dave Mackey, Greg Vollet, and others who are equally as talented but perhaps lesser known (at least by me) started the race. It could have been anyone's day. The real question was whether Matt's record would be taken down.
Just in case, I showed up at the finish with enough time to catch any record breakers. I am a big fan of Killian Jornet and I find his ventures very inspirational. Ask any young trail runner who inspires them and Killian's name will probably be at the top of the list. But on this particular day, I hoped that he would be slightly off of Matt's record. I really wanted him to win, but Matt's record is a legacy and to me it symbolizes how hard work and determination can pay off. The man has given a large part of his life to this race series. I was nervous that Killian would come in and bust that up like it was no big deal.
Killian did dominate field today setting a new age-group descent record. He was 24 minutes off of Matt's course record (showing what a beast Matt was in his prime). Though second place was close behind him at the summit, he stretched his lead over Alex Nichols to seven minutes by the finish line. Funny story about Killian's finish... I was about a quarter mile from the finish line so that I could get some good pictures. Near me was a woman with a radio and her job was to call in the numbers of runners so that the announcer could say their names over the loudspeaker at the finish. She must have been stressed about her job because she started yelling at Killian since he had taken his shirt off and she couldn't see his number. Killian was startled by the beratement so I started yelling "Go Killian!" until others caught on. C'mon, we don't need to see his number to know who he is.
Max King (U.S. Mountain Running team member and champion) was just 3 minutes behind Nichols to round out the podium. Notably, perennial power-house Dave Mackey finished in 7th place and looked like he had just come in from a relaxing afternoon of fly-fishing (see picture below). The women's race was even more exciting because Emelie Forsberg was third to the summit but had moved to the lead on the descent and Kasie Enman was within a few seconds of her until the finish. Third-place Mireia Varela from Spain was just four minutes back. Shows the importance of being a good down-hiller.
The real question of the day is how Solomon can afford to sponsor so many athletes.
Killian Jornet making it look easy.
Alex Nichols looking fresh with windswept hair.
Max King showing off the quads of an uphill world champion.
J Marshall Thomson trying to make a point to Killian that you can run well with lots of clothes on.
Greg Vollet thinking about how the French Alps are prettier than Pikes Peak.
Oscar Casal representing the awesome and tiny country of Andorra.
Dave Mackey smiling like a champ. He passed 3 people on the downhill.
Emilie Forsberg leading the women and almost making it into the top 10.
Kasie Enman showing that you can be a mom, live/train in the east, and still be awesome.
Spain's Mireia Varela shooting down the home stretch and ensuring that only Team Solomon athletes round out the women's podium. She was too fast for me to catch on camera close up.