It’s not easy to drive a car to the top of Pikes Peak, which makes it tough to understand why hundreds of women and men gather each year to run to the summit.
And they do this gathering and running voluntarily.
On Saturday, hundreds will run to the top in the Pikes Peak Ascent. On Sunday, hundreds will run to the top and back down in the Pikes Peak Marathon.
Susie Cogswell, 61, has been running in Pikes Peak events since 1983. Sunday will be her 14th competition.
She knows many of her friends wonder why she chooses to test herself in such a brutal fashion.
In a way, she understands the skepticism of the non-marathon runner. It is, no doubt, a vicious challenge.
“You either do it once and never do it again or you always come back,” Cogswell said. “It’s a love-hate relationship. It’s you against the mountain, and it’s not like any other mountain. It’s gorgeous. And it’s powerful.”
Taking on that power takes preparation and nerve, but there’s no doubt about the rewards. Each year, the Marathon finish line in downtown Manitou Springs is filled with joyful scenes.
Runners weep after realizing they have conquered — or at least survived — that massive mountain. Runners pose for photos with happy relatives and friends.
“It brings out a lot of emotion in people, and that’s true whether you are a Matt Carpenter or whether you are me,” Cogswell said.
Carpenter is, of course, the perennial winner of the Marathon. He’s won the race nine times. Cogswell is, in her words, “average.” She will not be the first woman across the line.
Mike Hauck, 50, of Woodland Park has no plans for victory, either. He’s still excited. He plans to run the 13.32-mile Ascent and 26.2-mile Marathon this weekend for his 34th and 35th Pikes Peak events.
He has an interesting take on the races. To his eyes, there are a few competitive winners, but if you finish, no one would dare call you a loser.
“One of the best feelings possible is finishing the race,” he said, “and knowing you’re one of the winners.”
Many of Hauck’s friends are similar to many of Cogswell’s friends. They can’t quite understand why he goes through all the hassle and pain.
His favorite moment is each time he runs past timberline and sees the long path between him and the summit.
“It’s really amazing to see all that trail ahead of you,” Hauck said. “It means you’ve gotten quite a ways up the hill.”
On Saturday and Sunday, Hauck will rise early for his annual ritual. He will challenge a big mountain. He does this willingly. He knows this baffles many of his friends.
He doesn’t care.
“I just really love the mountain and it just never seems the same to me,” Hauck said. “It’s always different. It’s always an adventure.”