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Sunday, August 17, 2003

First king of mountain still knows ups, downs


The king is back.

Steven Gachupin, 60, stood on the bed of a truck ready to bestow his mountainrunning wisdom on the second wave of runners at Saturday’s Pikes Peak Ascent.

“Don’t elbow anybody,” Gachupin said.

Gachupin, a Native American from Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, had every right to address the competitors. The words on his yellow shirt said it all: “King of the Mountain, Steven Gachupin, 1966, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’71.” He also addressed the crowd at the post-Ascent party.

“Steve is talking with Bob Johnson, who ran the first Marathon when there were 13 people that started and he was one of only four to finish,” race director Ron Ilgen said. “I wanted to give the crowd a sense of history. A sense of accomplishments that was done here. What the race was and what it has become.”

Gachupin won the Pikes Peak Marathon for the first time in 1966 with a time of 3 hours, 57 minutes, 4 seconds. Then, the Ascent and Marathon were ran on the same day. When a runner reached the summit, he or she had completed the Ascent. When he or she finished at Manitou Springs, that was the Marathon.

Gachupin repeated with marathon victories in ’67, ’68, ’69. ’70 and ’71.

“I’m real proud to be the first king of the mountain,” Gachupin said. “People back home respect me. I talk to kids in high schools, universities.”

From his toes to the top of his head, Gachupin stands all of 5-foot-3. And that’s all the advantage he needed, he said.

“I got short legs,” Gachupin said. “That makes for quick turns.”

Gachupin said his best marathon was the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1968 when he finished at 3:39:47. He said he was the first runner to run the race nonstop. He turned around at the summit right away and finished at the bottom — no water, no pit stop.

He also said he completed the feat at his first marathon in Denver in 1966.

“I didn’t know anything about marathons then,” Gachupin said. “I came in second. No water, no food. there was an article about me in the Denver Post the next day. It said I must be ‘halfcamel.’ “

Gachupin said he was named New Mexico’s high school cross country coach of the year earlier this year for leading the Jemez Valley High School team to its 12 th state championship.

Gachupin is always talking, always smiling and always ready with a one-liner.

“I’m still good looking,” he said. “Girls still like me.”

Copyright 2003, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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