Portrait of a Skyrunner

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter - Springs Style Cover
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By Pamela Franklin

See Matt. See Matt run. He runs in the mountains. He runs fast...very fast.

Matt Carpenter’s stride is short, yet efficient; his feet touch the ground just long enough to get the needed lift to propel him toward his next step. Up, over, around and down mountain trails he sails, as his brown hair wisps away from his face. With his arms pumping, legs digging in and blue eyes focused on the path ahead, Matt is a picture of concentration...a man on a mission.

“I want to be the best at what I do,” says Carpenter. “I would like to think that I changed the rules a little bit in mountain running and brought in a new era of not just running up and down mountains, but running up and down them very fast.”

At age 33, it appears Matt’s achieved that goal. He’s a member of an elite group of international mountain runners, the Italian SkyRunners. And by many, he’s considered the best in the world. In 1993, during the FILA Everest SkyMarathon in Tibet, which he won at 14,350 feet in elevation, he was the first person to break 3 hours. Of the 12 SkyMarathons in which he’s competed, he’s won 9. Plus, Matt currently holds the course record for the Pikes Peak Ascent (2:01:06), as well as the Pikes Peak Marathon (3:16:39), which he set in the same race in 1993.

Matt Carpenter on Elk Park Trail

Carpenter began running during his junior year in high school, after he and his mom moved from Ohio to Mississippi.

“I had heard an announcement to come run in the open division of a cross country meet. I had been running up and down the street where we lived and around the 1 mile loop that went around the mall, so I thought I could do it. I went out and beat the B team and all but 1 of the A team, and that was that. I started running a little more regularly and joined the team my senior year.”

In 1987 Matt moved to Vail, Colorado.

“[Living in] Vail finished my love of mountain running in that there was no where to run but up or down. I say finished because even while in Mississippi I would always gravitate toward the hardest, muddiest, steepest trails I could find.”

He moved to Colorado Springs in 1991 to train for the 1992 Olympic Marathon Trials.

Matt Carpenter: SkyMatt “I qualified for the Trials in early ’92 and did not have much left for the Trials themselves. However, I had made it and to date it is still one of my greatest personal achievements. 108 started that race and only 54 finished and I was one of them! I had set a goal and reached it!”

In 1993 he joined the FILA-sponsored Italian SkyRunners. Matt’s contract includes running 3 SkyMarathons per year. In addition, he’s done promotional work for FILA Outdoor SkyRunner clothing.

But running isn’t the only thing Matt Carpenter’s about. He earned a degree in computer science at the University of Southern Mississippi. Matt developed and maintains his own web site. In addition, he works part-time for The Colorado Springs Business Journal. He set up and maintains their web page, too, plus helps as technical support.

“I am really into keeping somewhat current on the goings on in the computer world. That is the real reason behind the web stuff. In the event that I take one mis-step, athletics could be over.”

Another of Matt’s goals is to spend more time each week doing volunteer work than “real” work.

Pikes Peak or Bust!

These are the conventional modes of transportation to get to the 14,110' summit of Pikes Peak:
  • Run the Pikes Peak Ascent or Pikes Peak Marathon

  • Hike up Barr Trail

  • Drive the Pikes Peak Highway

  • Ride the Pike’s Peak & Manitou Cog Railway
“I volunteer weekly at Jackson Elementary School teaching math. Two years ago I averaged 12 hours a week most of the year. Then I got to add cool things to my résumé like paper cutting, sorting, [using] a ditto machine and making cool animals for each letter of the alphabet.”

He’s also involved with the local Bolder Options program, the Pauline Memorial Catholic School career day, The American Heart Association and was a speaker at the 1997 Road Runners Club of America Convention.

During the 1998 racing season, Matt plans to compete in the Aspen SkyMarathon, the SkyRunner World Championships in Cervinia, Italy and the Pikes Peak Marathon. And even though he gets to travel all over the world to race, when asked about his favorite marathon, he replies, “I think it will always be Pikes Peak. It just has so many variables to it that it is really a challenge to get everything just right for that one certain day.” As for his future running plans, Carpenter says, “If I am lucky, I see no reason not to go for 10 [more years], but I think 5-7 years will be all that I can take mentally, if that.”

And when queried about his racing goals, he’s quick to respond “I still want to break 2 hours at the Pikes Peak Ascent.”

Run, Matt, run!

Matt Carpenter lives in Manitou Springs. Contact him at his web site: http://www.skyrunner.com

© SpringsStyle, Summer, 1998 - Reprinted with permission.

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