This story has been archived from the Monday, August 21, 2006

Neither age nor injury slows champ

Opinion by David Ramsey

Matt Carpenter couldn’t sleep. He retired to his bed at 9 p.m. Saturday to allow for those eight hours of slumber your mother always talked about.

But he just lay there in his bedroom on El Paso Boulevard in Manitou Springs. He stared at his ceiling, remembering how passionately he had trained for this Pikes Peak Marathon, remembering all the perils of running up and down this menacing mountain.

Carpenter embraces challenge. That’s why he adores Pikes Peak. The mountain is always there, virtually in his backyard, ready to conquer him if he gets lazy.

“It’s a love-hate relationship,” Carpenter said. “I’ve spent a lot of time hurting on that mountain, but it’s a deeply ingrained passion. The mountain doesn’t care about you. If you don’t train, it’s going to tell you.”

Carpenter won this battle. He climbed out of bed at 5:30 a.m. Sunday after sleeping two hours, maybe, and then joined hundreds of runners in a race into the clouds.

He returned, as usual, in first place, winning his seventh Pikes Peak Marathon. He finished in 3 hours, 33 minutes, 7 seconds — 12 minutes faster than his nearest competitor.

Not bad for a sleepy 42-year-old.


Pikes Peak Marathon winner Matt Carpenter rested under a thermal blanket while being treated in the medical tent in Manitou Springs after his victory on Sunday.

Carpenter had pushed himself through what he called “sick training.” He ran to the top of the peak every Saturday and Sunday. He ran at least 2 hours a day for five straight months.

He even endured the torture of a treadmill.

Carpenter enjoys running outdoors, sloshing through snow, getting drenched by rain.

But an accident in June left a deep cut on his left heel and forced him to retreat to his home and the monotony of running nowhere.

Carpenter was in a good mood after his victory. He listened to repeated shouts of congratulations from fans. He chuckled about the changing color of his hair, which now includes spots of gray.

He thought back to the moment he reached the summit.

It was foggy, and he was utterly focused on the challenge of racing down the peak to the finish line.

Then, from out of the fog, he heard a voice.

“Go, Da-Da, Go, Da-Da.”

It was his 4-year-old daughter, Kyla. His smile grew huge as he thought back to her words.

But remembering the month he spent running on a treadmill drained the smile from his face.

“I mean, running on a treadmill, you might as well hit your head against a wall,” Carpenter said. “I would run on that thing, and I was crying. I kept saying, ‘I can’t do this. It’s so boring.’”

He told himself, over and over, he couldn’t take any more. He would escape the treadmill, but then he heard a voice in his head that forced him back to the despised machine.

“You know what,” said the voice within, “the competition doesn’t care if you’re hurt.”

So he returned to the treadmill. He pushed himself without mercy all summer.

The result was his secondbest time. At 7 a.m., Galen Burrell lined up beside Carpenter at the start line. Burrell, who finished second, never again got a good look at Carpenter.

“I was never really close to him,” Burrell said, “except at the start.”

Carpenter, running alone on his mountain, tried his best to deceive himself. He was destined to win easily, but his inner voice told him runners were right behind, ready to swipe his lead.

“You just lie and tell yourself that they’re closer than they are,” Carpenter said. .” . . You have to fight the guy who says you have a good lead, because then you slow down.”

So he kept running. He never slowed.

On this cloudy Sunday morning, you had to wonder if he ever will.

Copyright 2006, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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