This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 14, 2005

Another year, another run up Pikes Peak


Every August, Bill Coffelt has the urge to challenge America’s Mountain one more time.

For 21 consecutive years, Coffelt has run up and down the mountain while competing in the Pikes Peak Marathon.

Coffelt even “doubled” six of those years. A “doubler” is a run- ner who does the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday.

Let us add a little perspective.

In the 50 years of the race, only 23 runners have completed more than 20 races, meaning a combination of the Ascent or Marathon or both.

Brenton Buxton of Austin, Texas, is the leader with 36 races — 18 Marathons and 18 Ascents. Buxton also holds the longest “doubler” streak, 12 years. Coffelt’s 21 races is the longest current streak of any kind. Completing either race is an amazing feat. Mere mortals? We’ll watch while more than 2,200 superfolk from around the world try to do it this weekend.

“When this all started out, it was pretty much a Colorado event,” race committee member Roger Allison said. “But by the early to mid-1980s it started getting national. Then by the late ‘80s, we would get all the states and about five foreign countries.

“It stands out as a run that is very attractive to that type of runner, the type of runner who wants to put another notch in the bedpost.”

Or more than 20 consecutive notches.

Coffelt, 45, travels from Arkansas every year. Sometimes he and 200 of his closest running companions in the Arkansas Pikes Peak Marathon Society plan vacations around the Marathon’s weekend.

“I’ve just loved being out there, out West, in the mountains,” said Coffelt, who works as a petroleum geologist. “Altitude doesn’t seem to bother me. Whether it’s hunting, hiking or running, I’ve just always seemed to enjoy being in the mountains. I enjoy running trails in the wilderness instead of just being on the streets in the city marathons and things like that. It got to be the annual road trip. If we don’t do any other race all year, we at least come out to Colorado Springs.”

Coffelt is one of the lucky ones, maybe even one of the special ones. Altitude is a huge consideration for most runners. Coffelt, who said he ran about 20 marathons besides Pikes Peak, trains in the rolling hills surrounding Fort Smith in western Arkansas. But those hills are bumps. They’re playground equipment compared to what runners face here.

Magazine Mountain is the highest point in Arkansas, and its peak is 3,282 feet lower than downtown Manitou Springs, the lowest point of the Ascent and the Marathon.

Still, Pikes Peak has the power to wear down even the lucky ones. Coffelt ran his personal best in 1989, a 4-hour, 30-minute and 34-second run that included a 1:45:47 descent. He also placed a career-best 20th that year.

Coffelt, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs about 160 pounds, knows his years of running the race are winding down. Through the 21 years, Coffelt has averaged a little more than 5 hours, 17 minutes. But he hasn’t bested that time since 2000, when he ran 5:08:04.

“I found out that once I got past 40, it got a lot harder to stay in shape,” Coffelt said, laughing. “It used to be that I could take some time off and wouldn’t lose too much ground. But now I’ve got to hit it every day and watch what I eat and get some sleep to stay in the kind of shape it takes to run like that.”

Folks in their 70s and 80s have completed either the Ascent or the Marathon. Coffelt said he doesn’t expect to run the mountain for that long, but he would like to continue for at least five years, when his son will be 16 and eligible to race.

“He might want to play football or something like that,” Coffelt said. “So, I don’t know if he’ll want to run that far or not. But that would really be something.

“I would really enjoy being able to cap off all my years by getting him up there when he turns 16. I guess I’ll have to stay in shape at least for five more years and see what he wants to do.”

Columnist Milo F. Bryant can be reached at 636-0252 or

Copyright 2005, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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