This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 14, 2005

Better be wearing the right bib, bub

Peak officials target cheaters


To all you itchy-legged runners shut out of the 50th Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent this weekend, race officials feel your pain. Really, they do.

But their understanding goes only so far.

If you’re planning on sneaking into the race, either with a number borrowed or bought, better think twice.

Official entrants received this warning via mail this year: “Switching runner bibs will result in disqualification and you will be banned from future races.”

We know. It’s tempting. Your friend got in and you didn’t. Then he got hurt training and can’t race. He knows you badly want to run, so he gives or sells you his number. You’re in.

But both of you would be banned if caught.

“This year of all years we’ve publicized it more,” said Carol Korth, race registrar.

The milestone-year races filled up in days instead of months this year, leaving many runners bib-less. Organizers started a wait list, but stopped taking names after the list ballooned to more than 140. They knew there wouldn’t be enough dropouts for the famed race up and down the 14,115-foot peak.

Unauthorized runners desperate for a Pikes Peak high might also try to blend into the crowds — 1,800 for Saturday’s Ascent, 800 for Sunday’s marathon — as bandits, participants without a number.

“We are really watching for that,” said Ron Ilgen, race director. “We’re going to be doing a few things trying to control that.”

They can’t prevent bandits from running because the race course, Barr Trail, is open to the public on race day. So they take the guiltinducing approach.

Race marshals plan to walk through the crowd at the start, advising the numberless to step out.

Along the route, aid station volunteers won’t deny a bandit water, but are expected to help “remind them this is a race for people who paid money to be here,” Korth said.

Ilgen said he’s more concerned about people swapping numbers.

Wearing another person’s number can wreak havoc on results. One year, a 60-year-old man gave his number to a 40-year-old. The younger guy wound up “winning” the older age division — a fact not discovered until the 60-year-old fessed up the next day.

Trophies had to be redistributed. When that happens, “it’s a mess,” Korth said.

Switching numbers can also be dangerous. Participants submit medical information when they register. In an emergency, the fraudulent runner could receive the wrong treatment.

“They want to know who’s on that mountain, which I don’t blame them,” said Craig Simon, from Wichita, Kan., who has entered the Ascent and Marathon.

Ilgen expects up to 30 or so bandits for the Ascent and half that for the Marathon. Not so bad. More than that could be a problem.

The U.S. Forest Service caps entries at 1,800 and 800. The numbers are based on a formula designed to provide what the service calls a top recreation experience and minimal environmental damage.

After all, only “so many people can go up the Barr Trail . . . before it becomes Disneyland,” said Sue Miller, the forest service permit administrator.

She said race officials have asked to increase the numbers but have been turned down. Eighteen hundred trampling pairs of feet are about all the trail can handle in a day, she said.

As for bandits, “I just hope people would understand they put their permit in jeopardy,” Miller said. “By ignoring that cap, they are putting the Marathon and the Ascent folks in jeopardy.”


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

Back to the Press Archives