Pikes Peak
Ascent & Marathon
FAQ

Most of the race details type questions (what time does..., where does... etc.) can be found in your confirmation booklet and will not be addressed here.

Refunds, Numbers, Lost items, Etc...
When are the races?
How are waves/fields determined?
How long does the ascent portion take?
How long does the descent portion take?
Should I run this race?
How should I train for Pikes Peak?
What can I do about the altitude?
Should I bring my own water?
What should I wear?
What kind of shoes should I wear?
What is the current age limit on the races?



ANYTHING related to the race such as; Can you check my number? Can you move me to the other wave? Can I switch races? I lost my gloves on the Peak, were they turned into lost and found? etc.
You will need to contact the Pikes Peak Marathon for the answers to your questions!

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When are the races?
The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon are held on the 3rd weekend in September.

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How are waves/fields determined?
All the races/wave/fields have qualifications. The qualifications are all checked. See the entry info page of the race website for details.

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How long does ascent portion take?
The Ascent or ascent portion of the Marathon takes as long, or longer, than a full flatland marathon. However, some flatlanders find that it can take much longer and think that a better prediction is to multiply your marathon time by 1.5! On the other hand if you have trained in high altitude it is possible to go faster than your flatland marathon time during the Ascent. In general if you live at altitude go with your flat-land marathon time otherwise add a 1/2 hour. If you can be honest and admit that you are not training and you are a flatlander, multiply your flatland marathon time by 1.5.

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How long does the descent portion take?
The average descent time through the years has been 62.8% of the runner’s Ascent time with a standard deviation of 8.5%. 76.4% of all runners were within one standard deviation of the average (range of 54.3-71.3%), and 95.9% of all runners were within two standard deviations of the average (range of 45.8-79.8%). The 4.1% outside of two deviations were probably runners who either took it very easy on the way up and flew down or those that went too hard on the way up and either bonked or got hurt on the way down. No matter what, the downhill is not free and there are even a few ups on the way down!

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I’m currently looking for a new challenge and am considering the Pikes Peak Marathon. I’ve run (your number here) marathons in the past and I do (no/some/a lot of) trail running. I (do/do not do) any running in high altitude. Should I run this race?
I have no ideal if you should run this race — I do not know you! Personally I feel that if you have no experience at this type of thing there are other races that should be used as a stepping stone. Further, if you do not have a semi-decent marathon time (<4:30 or 10:20 miles) I question the logic of wanting to be out there for up to twice as long for the round trip! However, there are those that feel like Pikes Peak is the “be all to end all” and want to jump right in — it takes all kinds and this race gets them! However, 80 people “finishing” after the cut-off like in 1999 is not only stupid it is dangerous and one of these years the weather is going to turn ugly and a bunch of people are going to get screwed just because the race committee effectively encourages this type of nonsense! Some like to call my attitudes “elitist” but I consider them sane — besides 4:30 flat-land marathons are not “elitist!”

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How should I train for Pikes Peak?
I think any general marathon plan that works for you is a good START with 3 key considerations. 1) An emphasis must be placed on running up and down for long periods of time. 2) A good amount of time should be spent on somewhat uneven trails 3) The Pikes Peak Marathon is going to take a whole lot longer than a flat-land marathon so more time needs to be put on your feet. Here is a general schedule for the hard days of a running week. The other days are easy recovery runs mostly on trails.

So basically there are four hard workouts that get rotated so that you are doing 2 a week plus the long run. If you do a flat tempo run on Tuesday do the repeat hills that Thursday. That way you are always alternating and not doing two tempos or two speed workouts in a row. There is a lot of emphasis on working on close to the grade of the race — 11%. This is a MUST for a good Pikes Peak race so that you are comfortable running at that grade. Tempo runs teach you pacing and since they are only 20 mins they will be at a faster pace than your race so the race pace will seem slow. Repeats make you fast so that you can do your tempo runs faster. Long runs give you endurance so that you can do more repeats. It is all a big circle and again there are lots of variations depending on your individual strengths and weaknesses. About the only difference between levels of ability is the speed in which stuff is done.

Further, unlike most races there are lots of variations on what is available for people to simulate race conditions. While course conditions for most races can be simulated — there is NO way to simulate running the 16 Golden Stairs at 14,000 feet! We have the big hill (Pikes Peak) so we do not need to do a lot of treadmill work. However in 1993, the year I set the race records, I did not have easy access to the Peak so I did almost ALL of my Tuesday/Thursday runs on my treadmill. Now I still use it once in a while for the consistency it offers and for most of my Tuesday/Thursday runs during the Winter.

To see exactly what most of us do around here in the Incline Club check out the Incline Club. From 1997 through 2008, runners who ran with the Incline Club took home 87 top-10s in the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon!

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What can I do about the altitude?
Short of moving — next to NOTHING! There are a few altitude simulation chambers out there but I have not heard of any with public access. Some people plan vacations or weekend trips to Pikes Peak so they can do some high altitude training on the course.

In general, the formula for VO2 loss goes like this: For every 1,000 feet above 5,000 feet you will lose 3% of your VO2. So on top of the Peak there is a 27% reduction in your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles.

However, this is AFTER training at altitude, so most people are going to suffer even more. In general, you can follow the 2 day, 2 week, 2 month plan or the 3 A’s.

  1. Lots of neat little things happen in the first 2 days: Increased pulse, breathing etc. This is the Adjust phase.
  2. Lots of cool bigger things happen over the next two weeks. Red blood cell count, hematocrit etc. This is the Acclimation phase.
  3. Over the next 2 months most of what is going to happen will happen and level out including those things mentioned above as well as neurological responses and hormone levels. This is the Adaptation phase.
The key words in both of the last paragraphs are “in general” because some people die (as in dead) at only 8,000 feet. Others have run close to 3 hour marathons with the entire 26.2 mile flat course being at 17,060 feet. Some adapt faster, some seem to never get used to the effects of altitude. But as you can see a weekend (as opposed to consistent training) in altitude is not going to do that much as far as acclimation goes and when you go back to wherever you will lose the benefits just as fast! Bottom line, a lot of people that do the race do not get to train in altitude — nothing can be done about it so do not let it worry you.

However what the weekend on Pikes Peak will do is prepare you for what is ahead so that the experience will not be new. Knowing the course is invaluable! Knowing what hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) feels like will make it much easier the second time! Taken together a weekend on Pikes Peak could shave a VERY significant amount of time off of your race! This IS worth all the trouble and expense and if you can do it, I would recommend it!

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Should I bring my own water?
This question largely depends on what you think you can get away with. There are 7 aid stations during the Ascent; end of the 1st switch-back, the 12th switch-back, No Name Creek, Bob’s Road, Barr Camp, A-Frame and the Basin just below the Cirque. For the Marathon there is the 1st switch-back on the way up, the next 6 stations as in the Ascent but up and down, plus the top for a total of 14. I do not bring water with me in the race and for me this means that on the way up I will go 1 time (after Barr Camp) about 25 minutes without water which is getting on the edge of being too long. This is why I often stop and walk a few steps while I drink a couple of cups of water at some of the aid stations. However, someone planning a 4h30m Ascent will have to go almost an hour without water which I feel is way too long. For those running close to the cut-off of 6h30m this could spell disaster!!! I would think that anyone planning a 3 hour or more Ascent should bring water. This still makes for some 40 minute no water sections so drink a lot when you can get it. There is a fine line between being slowed down because of carrying extra weight and being slowed down because you are dehydrated. It is far better to error on the side of carrying extra weight!!! A good compromise is to carry an empty water bottle with you and fill it at the aid stations just enough to get you half way to the next aid station. This way you are not always carrying the extra weight but you are always with water. CamelBaks are also very good at carrying the water but this means of course you will also be carrying the extra weight and a lot of it in the beginning. I use one for some of my long training runs but do not think I would do so for a race unless there was no water to be had. However for those that do not feel relaxed and smooth with a traditional water bottle a CamelBak is a viable alternative to consider. Again the trick is not to over fill it. Fill it 1/2 way or less and only use that water in between the aid stations.

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What should I wear?
Despite the fact that this is covered in the confirmation booklet, I still get this question far too often! How the heck should I know? If I could predict the weather on race day I would be a weatherman not a runner. Further, the weather changes so fast on Pikes Peak that you could be suffering from the heat on the bottom and get snowed on at the top! Frankly, I think it should be a rule that all competitors have with them a long-sleeved shirt or jacket and a pair of gloves in order to start the race. If you do not use them — no harm done. If you need them but don’t have them things could get very ugly! As an added bonus the gloves can save your hands if you fall on the way down.

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What kind of shoes should I wear?
If the shoe fits...
Some people actually change shoes at the top during the round trip and put on more cushiony shoes for the down trip. I wear the whole way because the trail is already soft. Some swear by big treads for more traction. I think the few gravel sections are too loose so big treads will not help and the rest of the time you just make the shoe heavier. Some think supportive “trail” shoes will save their ankles. A “trail” shoe “may” save a few small ankle turns but when you have a big turn I think that you will get hurt a lot worse in this type of shoe!
... wear it!

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What is the current age limit on the races?
Runner must be 16 on race day.

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