Letter to the editor published in the August 20, 1999 Pikes Peak Journal

Performance at Pikes has peaked

In your list of things [see August 13, PPJ] that make the Pikes Peak races unique, not offering prize money was offered as one example. Add to that uniqueness the fact that the races are getting slower. The 1998 men’s Ascent was the slowest in 34 years when only 25 runners did the race. The woman’s marathon was the slowest in 12 years and the men’s marathon was the slowest in eight. The fastest runners are choosing to do other races that have more competition and better awards.

The Triple Crown of Running stands high on the “amateur sports competition” soapbox stating that this is one of the reasons the organization was founded in addition to promoting physical fitness. However this stand does not jive with the TCR’s history. The Garden of the Gods 10 Mile and the Colorado Springs 10K Classic both had a long history of awarding prize money to the top runners and some of the best runners in the sport (Olympic Gold medal winner Gelindo Bordin, Pat Porter, Lorraine Moller) came to these once prestigious events. When the money was pulled in the mid ‘90s the top runners left and the size of the fields declined. Indeed, the 10K folded and the Garden went from an average of more than 1,500 runners for the first half of the decade to having less than 900 runners this year. The last two TCR Garden races each had only four men running faster than 6 minute mile pace whereas some of the races during the prize money era had more than 20 runners going much faster! Even the Pik es Peak Ascent and Marathon had cash awards for records from 1992 though 1995 and in some years foreign runners were flown in at TCR expense. During that time the records were lowered 4 times in addition to many near record times being run.

Now the TCR seems to pander the status quo and declare the peak races a success simply because they fill earlier each year. The reality is the number of runners finishing as a percentage of those who register has gone down in recent years. Only by increasingly “overbooking” the races has the number of finishers appeared to remain the same or rise slightly. This year the “overbooking” has been significantly increased so don’t be too surprised if you hear after this weekend that record numbers finished the peak races and therefore these were the most “successful” races to date.

When the TCR attracted top runners more than 6,000 runners took part in the events. Now about half that number are running. (Some conveniently forget that not only did the TCR kill the 10K Classic, but they also killed the Garden 10K Tune-up and three kid’s fun runs ). Amateur athleticism is from a bygone era and it is not fair to those who chose to be the best. Besides, it seems that when the elite runners were running a lot more physical fitness was being promoted!

Matt Carpenter
Manitou Springs
Course record holder, Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon

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