PIKES PEAK MARATHON: RECORDS ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN. A COLORADO STORY. WITH ZEBULON PIKE, JHON BARR AND ARNO SUOMINEN.
A short story written by Mayayo and originally published at italian magazine Spirito Trail OCT18 issue
Unconfirmed reports state that America´s mountain, the famous Pike´s Peak that stands alone over Colorado Springs at 4.302m has been climbed up and down by a woman, Megan Kimmel, via Barr Trail in just 4H15M. Sh would have achieved that, despite the route´s 42km and over 2.300m of ascent.
A verifying comisión will now investigate for our readers in Italy, cradle of modern mountain running. Bring in the three witnesses by chronological order: Zebulon Pike, LT Coronel and explorer; Jhon Barr, burro train driver and Arne Sumonien, Physician and Pike´s Peak marathon inspirer.
My name is Zebulon Pike, Liutenat Coronel in the Army of the United States. I am here to warn you not to believe blatant lies that may be put to you by such people as I have come across before entering these pages. It was me, and no other man, who in the course of my explorations into the Colorado highlands discovered America´s mountain. A 4.306 meters high beauty that was then named after me. True enough, before I came across the Ute indians called it “Tava” their word for sun. There dwellings and remains are yet very present here, from Manitou Springs to Colorado Springs. True as well, the spaniards were here also. They were the first westerners to reach this mountains some centuries before we arrived. And will you believe they named my peak as “El Capitan”? Españoles…..
So what are those lies I warn you about? Well, a seasoned army veteran and explorer like me could not but strive to summit the “Highest Peak” as I first humbly baptized it. But…. “here we found the snow middle deep; no sign of beast or bird inhabiting this region. The thermometer which stood at 9° above 0 at the foot of the mountain, here fell to 4° below 0. The summit of the Grand Peak, which was entirely bare of vegetation and covered with snow, now appeared at the distance of 15 or 16 miles from us, and as high again as what we had ascended, and would have taken a whole day’s march to have arrived at its base, when I believed no human being could have ascended to its pinical [sic]. This with the condition of my soldiers who had only light overalls on, and no stockings, and every way ill provided to endure the inclemency of the region; the bad prospect of killing any thing to subsist on, with the further detention of two or three days, which it must occasion, determined us to return”
I later learnt that a Young student named Edwin James took on my idea and summited in just two days. A brilliant and life threatening exploit as it implied such a swift altitude ascent from 2.000 to over 4.300 while at the same time risking severe blizzards and storms. Yet, surely those two days for the climb are close enough to the healthy limits of human endurance for this up and down daunting challenge from Manitou Springs. In fact, I happen to be well informed that most of your 21st century summiters still take that time to climb my peak, despite the work of Jhon Barr on the route, plus the modern equipment and apparel they come with.
So hear me say: I, Zebulon Pike, discovererer of Pike´s Peask hereby dismiss as liars those who claim to have witnessed an ascent and descent of a woman in less than five hours, despite repeated rumours over the last 40 years. A male at the peak of his physical prowess may perphaps attempt it, risking his life in the process. Yet I believe no female body will be strong enough to climb up and come down below that time.
My name is Jhon Barr, I am a burro train operator. It was me, who built the Barr Trail where the Pike´s Peak Marathon is held. Four years I worked on it, from 1914 to 1918. I built it to provide a logical and safe way for my burros in bringing mountaineers and their gear up into the thin air that surrounds Pike´s Peak in safety, sparing them unnecesary physical efforts and health risks. In fact, even when climbing on my burros I took additional pain to build Barr Camp at 3.000m, right at mid-climb, from 1922 to 1924. There our parties will always rest, sleep and hydrate after the first days of climb, before going on to Summit on the second day. I am told the burro trains stopped taking people over in the 1960´s, shame on you modern day people. Yet I know that Barr Camp is still there, providing shelter and acclimation for mountaineers who climb Pike´s Peak in two days, as it ought to be done. The current wardens are Jonathan and a certain Zachary Miller whom I am told is also quite known in Italy because he spends every summer travelling the Alps. Is that really so? In any case, Barr Camp is what Zach may now call home, and I will be proud to invite any of you to come visit it, from Italy to Colorado.
My name is, Dr. Arne Suominen of Del Ray Beach, Fla. On Aug. 10, 1956 I challenged smokers and nonsmokers to race up and down Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail on a 42 km race, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the discovery of America’s most famous mountain. I enlisted 58-year-old real-estate salesman Rudy Fahl as the race director. I wanted to prove that smoking diminished one’s physical endurance. And that I did, no question. Of the 13 runners that accepted the challenge, only three were smokers. Lou Wille, champion of two Pikes Peak races in the late 1930s and a two-pack-a-day smoker got to the Summit, yes. But he stopped to have a smoke up there and never came down.
Those of us that sucessfully completed the ascent and descent were led by Monte Wolford, then 28, who was a vegetarian and a bodybuilder. He won the race in 5h39m58s. Tom Brewster, a high school runner, placed second in 6:21:51. And me, the 56-year old Suominen came in third, finishing about 15 minutes behind Brewster. As for the women, the Pike´s Peak Marathon that succeeded my challenge was THE FIRST MARATHON in the world to officially accept women runner´s, starting with winner Arlene Pieper in 1956 with a mark of 9h16.
Before my time came up in 2016 I witnessed the most memorable performances there will ever be at Pike´s Peak Marathon: In 1981 Lynn Bjorklund came up and down in just 4:15:18. Then in 1993 Matt Carpenter set an incredible 3:16:39. Ever since, the best mountain runners in the world have tried to better those marks, including myths such as Ricardo Mejía (1995- 3h21) Kilian Jornet (3h40) or even one of your countrymen, Fulvio Dapit who was the fastest runner in 2005 with 3h58.
Unbeatable perfomances, I thought…and boy, was I wrong! Just a few weeks ago, the peloton gathered once again for the annual sacrifice to the gods of speed and endurance at Pike´s Peak Summit. Among them, I spotted some descendants of the spanish Conquistadores, who keep coming back to Colorado. Once again, they fought bravely to the end of their forces. Laura Orgué and Oriol Cardona were their names. Fast and tough they were, yes, but none went beyond the silver. Gold was to stay at Colorado, in the hands of Dakota Jone and Megan Kimmel.
And pure 24 carats gold did Megan hit as she rushed all the way to the finish to beat the 37 year old mark of Lynn by a mere 14 seconds. A woman had now run up and down the 42km of Barr Trail, summited at 4.302m at Pike´s Peak and back in 4h15m04. Therefore, as facts go, I must now dismiss Mr Pike and Mr Barr opinions as those of XIX pioneers, unaware of how XXI runners will keep on running in the mountains. Ever higher. Ever faster.
Because records….records are made to be broken.
PIKES PEAK MARATHON : Pictures gallery by Mayayo
The Golden Trail Series held its fourth stop at Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado, where two locals took the gold and two spaniards the silver. Dakota Jones and Megan Kimmel won, with Kimmel setting a new women’s course record of 4:15:04 to break the mark that had stood since 1981 by 14 seconds. Spaniards Oriol Cardona and Laura Orgué took silver, with Darren Beck and Kristina Mascañares claiming bronze.
On a sunny morning that was perfect for racing up to the top of 4,302-meter Pikes Peak and back down to Manitou Springs at 2.000m altitude, the Pikes Peak summit was the halfway mark to climb before going back again all the way down along the same route, following the classic Barr trail. See here photos of it.
MORE ON SKIMO, TRAIL RUNNING AND MOUNTAIN GEAR
- Our best reviews for selected mountain gear.
- Our video collection with athlete´s interviews, races and more.
- Carrerasdemontana.com offers the best trail info in spanish, since 2007.