This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 14, 2005

A man and his mountain

He conquered the Peak in record time and holds the record for wins


Matt Carpenter stands in the middle of the street near his home in Manitou Springs, his eyes fixed on the mountain that so enchants him. He’s staring at Pikes Peak.

“Look at that bad boy,” Carpenter says. “It’s so beautiful. I love it.”

He sure does. He moved to Manitou to be close to the mountain. He has run to the top hundreds of times.


Matt Carpenter is the only runner to win the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon in the same year — 2001.
He has hundreds of Pikes Peak coins. He’s obsessed with every detail of the Pikes Peak Marathon and has, with a little help from his friends, typed into his Web site all the names of the 52,467 women and men who have competed in the Marathon and Ascent.

You would think that this man who so loves this mountain would join hundreds of others next Sunday for the 50th running of the Pikes Peak Marathon.

You would be wrong.

Carpenter, 41, will run the Leadville Trail 100-mile ultramarathon, “The Race Across the Sky,” Saturday and next Sunday. He will skip the Pikes Peak weekend that has brought him acclaim, joy and torment.

He’s won the Marathon six times and the Ascent five times. In 1993, he ripped up and down the mountain in 3 hours, 16 minutes and 39 seconds. His course record stands.

Carpenter moves to his living room — which, of course, features a view of America’s Mountain — and talks about his sometimes stormy connection with the Pikes Peak races.

He has won so many times, he says. What’s the point of winning again?

“To me, at this point of my running, it’s really at the point of accumulation,” he says. “I won it when I was single and running was my life. I won it when I was married. I won it with a kid. I won it injured.

“Look at what’s happened with the Tour de France. Lance (Armstrong) could probably win another one and another one, but there comes a point when you’ve accomplished what you want to accomplish.

“For me — and I have to put me in quotes because everybody gets upset — but for me the competition that I desire isn’t quite there yet.”

His desire, for the past year, has been to conquer the brutal course in Leadville. Carpenter might have been tempted to return to Pikes Peak this year if he had not suffered so much last summer in “The Race Across the Sky.”

A romantic name. A brutal course.

Carpenter walked the final 33 miles of the race. “My legs, they completely ran out,” he says.

He promised himself he would return. He has been obsessed with Leadville ever since. He has run at least 90 minutes each day since November. He runs, often pushing his 3-year-old daughter Kyla in a stroller, with one thought drumming through his mind.

Leadville conquered him. Now, he will conquer Leadville.

He expects to struggle to sleep days before the race. He expects his heart to beat fast as he walks to the starting line for that long, long run through the mountains.

He used to feel the same tingle when he thought of running at Pikes Peak. He struggled to sleep. He could barely wait.

But feuds drained his fire. He was disgusted when elite runners weren’t allowed to compete because the race was full. He boycotted the races in 1999 and 2000, wrote letters to the editor, became both the race’s greatest winner and greatest critic.

Some of the changes he sought are in place. Each race — the women’s and men’s Ascent and the women’s and men’s Marathon — reserves 10 spots for elite runners.

“I take an activist role because I want to see my times tested,” Carpenter says. “If they’re going to keep it dumbed down forever, my record’s not going to be appreciated as much and I think it’s an injustice.

“To me, it wasn’t why did I take an activist role, it’s why weren’t more people up in arms.”

Scott Elliott, 41, has enjoyed several battles with Carpenter in the Ascent. Elliott won last year’s Ascent but will miss this year’s race because of a hamstring injury.

“Matt and I share the same hope — that there will be a new crop of young, fast whippersnappers,” Elliott says.

Race director Ron Ilgen knows Carpenter has struggled with the philosophy of the race.

“It would be great if he could be there,” Ilgen says. “He sets the standard.”

He’ll try to set the standard again. He’s memorized most of the race trivia and has found a record he doesn’t own. Marti Cooksey set the mark with an 18-year span between her first and last victories. She won the women’s Ascent in 1978 and again in 1996.

Carpenter first won in 1988. A win in 2007 would erase Cooksey’s distinction.

He will return.

Matt Carpenter has won either the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon 11 times, including both in 2001:

1990 - 2:07:36
1994 - 2:09:35
1997 - 2:10:41
2001 - 2:16:13
2002 - 2:23:22

1988 - 3:38:05
1989 - 3:39:26
1993 - 3:16:39
1998 - 3:44:27
2001 - 3:53:53
2003 - 3:43:46


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

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