*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on August 26, 2021. The link to the program is here; the audio file is below. The text below does not match the audio; the text is meant to describe the context for the audio file.

When I lined up this past Saturday for the Pikes Peak Ascent, I knew the basics. The only way to go is up—the race climbs about 7,800 feet in 13.3 miles. 

As of the beginning of July, officials had close to 1,800 people signed up for the Ascent. That included over a thousand Coloradans, nearly a-hundred Texans, three dozen Californians, two dozen Minnesotans, as well as and Austrians, Canadians, a Brit, a Spaniard, and an Israeli. 

This is typical. 

People have always flocked to America’s Mountain on race day. 

The Marathon, run the day after the Ascent, has about half as many runners but is just as diverse.  

Several groups are known to show up every year to compete. The Arkansas Pikes Peak Marathon Society has brought hundreds of runners over the past 40 years. Peak Busters, a women’s run group has been helping women bag the peak since 1976. And then there’s the Incline Club, which meets twice a week at the base of the mountain. Their motto: “Go out hard, when it hurts speed up.” 

All these people are brought together by the non-profit that runs the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent, led by Ron Ilgen. This is his 19th and final year serving as the race’s director. 

On race weekend, organizers expect close to 650 volunteers to make it all happen. Those volunteers work hard: they haul hoses for water and hike uphill with aid station gear, many of them assembling at ‘zero dark thirty’ to make sure the race is ready when the gun goes off.

Until our next mountainside chat, be good, be well, and no matter what, climb on.

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