This story has been archived from the Friday, August 19, 2005

Step into Ascent and Marathon runners’ shoes


More than 2,000 people will run on Pikes Peak this weekend during the Ascent and Marathon, which is in its 50th year.

Starting in Manitou Springs, 1,800 will depart early Saturday for the Ascent, and 800 will leave early Sunday for the Marathon. Theoretically, all 800 will turn around at the top and come down Barr Trail later Sunday to complete the Marathon.

But why? Why do people sometimes travel thousands of miles to run or walk 7,815 feet to the summit?

Something about Pikes Peak draws them. Race officials asked runners to explain themselves on the Internet as part of registration.

Their reasons are funny and touching, flippant and heartbreaking, and weird and inspiring.

For Richard Grote, 37, of Dallas it’s a good thing there’s a year between races, because “I’ve finally forgotten how much it hurt last time.”

Former Colorado Springs resident Kevin Ommen of Papillion, Neb., said he got zapped by a lightning bolt during the 2004 Marathon’s downhill portion.

So this year, he’ll do only the Ascent. It’s shorter. That’s less time to get struck by lightning, he figures.

Ommen said other runners saw the bolt hit the ground behind him. He felt the shock, “like a violent muscle contraction.”

He finished the race and is planning to finish again. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, right?

“I guess since it’s happened once, I’m even safer,” he said.

Norma Rahall, of Tierra Verde, Fla., got a belated birthday present.

“I’m finally 16 and able to run with my dad,” she wrote.

Stephen Irish, 37, of Bloomington, Ind., is running “because Hoosiers aren’t afraid of your little hills.”

Blake Evans, 31, of Colorado Springs said he entered because he met his wife, Kristen, at the race.

Stephanie Passarelli, 33, of Lakewood is the mother of two daughters.

“The first year I ran the Ascent in 1998, my husband proposed to me at the top after we finished,” Passarelli wrote. “I’ve run every year since then with the exception of the two summers when my daughters were born within a month of the race.”

David D. Jones, 61, of St. Paul, Minn., is running the Ascent on Saturday “to get in shape for the Marathon on Sunday.”

Chris Holt, 44, of Colorado Springs is running because he missed the race last year. He is celebrating surviving kidney cancer, while Steve Merschel, 28, of Louisville wrote he will be running “for my Aunt Mary Jo, who has terminal brain cancer.”

Craig Simon of Wichita, Kan., is celebrating life. He turns 50 this weekend. Simon started running marathons only 10 years ago. Now he’s hooked.

“It’s my 50th on their 50th,” he said by telephone. “It’s to prove to myself I feel as good at age 50 as I did at 40.”

Jerry Evans, 57, of North Little Rock, Ark., wants “to more earnestly ponder the lyrics” of “America the Beautiful,” the song from Katharine Lee Bates’ poem written in 1893 from Pikes Peak’s summit.

Wichita’s Jerry Scholl, 52, is running because he’s “not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.”

For Cheryl Hickok, 33, of Bloomington, Ind., the race figures into family planning.

“I had registered for the (Ascent) in 2003 and became pregnant with our first child shortly after registration,” she wrote. “Since we’re hoping to conceive another one this year, I thought, `I’d better register and really start training!’"

Robyn Goldstein, 45, of Lake Mary, Fla., is celebrating a new life after gastric-bypass surgery in 2002. She weighs 120 pounds, down from 245 pounds.

“I started running two years ago,” Goldstein said. “Since January, I’ve done eight marathons in eight different states.”

Goldstein is so pumped for Pikes Peak that she has been sleeping with a stuffed marmot.

“He’s my good-luck charm,” she said. “That and my Broadmoor bear.”

Barb Gregoire, 49, of Steamboat Springs and her husband, Jim, start with a finishing plan.

“My husband and I hold hands as we cross the finish line,” she wrote. “It may not sound like much to you, but to us it is very special.”

Kari Thorne, 47, of Avon runs with women of a certain age. They call themselves “The Hormone Replacement Harriers.” They run to stay in shape “because we’re getting old,” she said. She compares the race to repeating childbirth.

“The second or third time you’re in labor, you remember and think, `Why am I doing this?’"

John Campbell, 60, of Carbondale has run the race since 1974.

“People walk away and say, `I’ve done that, that was a challenge,’” he said.

A few keep coming back. And coming back. Campbell’s glad to be one of them.

“There are only about 10 percent of the marathon runners who have experienced the mountain for what it is,” said Campbell, who underwent treatment for prostate cancer this spring. “That mountain is full of energy. It becomes a ritual.”


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

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