August 14, 2013 Updated: August 14, 2013 at 8:36 am
For a race with no past, Scott Dahlberg just had to listen to his body to figure out when to make his move Tuesday morning at the inaugural Pikes Peak High-Altitude Mile.
The Peyton native found another gear with about 400 meters remaining, then held off the pack to win the event in 4 minutes, 48 seconds.
"This is uncharted territory, so I had to play it by ear and see how I felt," said Dahlberg, entering his second season as assistant cross country coach at Colorado State. "My breathing wasn't getting a lot harder, so I felt I could pick it up a little and test that threshold. Hopefully, I could maintain that until the kick. Luckily, there was still a little kick left."
Dahlberg finished ahead of Sammy Kiplagat and Isaac Chelimo, both natives of Kenya, and Dey Dey, who escaped his homeland of Sudan during a civil war.
The race, the brainchild of Ron Ilgen, president of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, took place over six circular laps on the wet dirt-and-gravel parking lot atop Pikes Peak.
"The idea came to me while training for the Pikes Peak Marathon a few years ago," Ilgen said. "I had been contemplating it for a while, and we needed to work with the city and the Pikes Peak Highway and have a run on top of Pikes Peak. It was really exciting. Nobody had a clue how fast you could run up there. It was very interesting to see."
Kiplagat led after the first two laps, with Chelimo close behind each time. Chelimo seized the lead at the halfway mark and after the fourth lap, and while Chelimo faded to third, Dey surged to the No. 2 spot. Dahlberg, meanwhile, came through in fourth place heading into the fifth lap before making his bold move.
"I didn't come here to sit back," Dahlberg said. "When I decided to take the lead, I was either going to bomb or die trying. It was fun, and I was fortunate to be a part of it."
Fifteen men competed in the race. Former Rice University steeplechaser Nicole Mericle claimed the women's race, crossing the finish in 5:53.37, taking command at the halfway mark to pull away from the remaining three runners. Colorado-Colorado Springs graduate Shannon Payne finished second.
"I had no idea what it was going to be like, but it was good to see the guys run first," said Mericle, who grew up in Houston and didn't move to Boulder until last year. "By seeing them, I saw that I was going to go out relaxed and pick it up the last 800. Once I was going for it, I had to commit."