Ascent/Marathon: The women of the mountain

August 13, 2009


A Colorado Springs genealogist will collect a $250 reward from the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon for finding Arlene Stine, who became the first woman to finish a U.S. marathon when she tackled America’s mountain in 1959.

Linda Vixie, 47, spent a week conducting Internet searches, primarily on, and making 25-plus phone calls before locating Stine, a former Colorado Springs resident previously with a last name of Pieper and now living in Fresno, Calif.

Race organizers plan to fly Stine, 79, and her 59-year-old daughter, Kathy Pieper, into Colorado Springs on Saturday. Stine, who completed the 1959 race in 9 hours, 16 minutes, then will serve as an honorary starter for Sunday’s Marathon.

Stine ran up Pikes Peak in the late 1950s to promote her family’s health studio and her weekly TV show on physical fitness. She wanted women to realize, “You can do something for yourself. Find something you really love and enjoy, and do it.”

“I didn’t know until now I was the first woman to run a (U.S.) marathon,” Stine added. “I enjoyed the race, and I tell people about it sometimes. I don’t feel like I’m a celebrity.”


Men were the first on America’s mountain, but they’ve shared the spotlight in the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. A look at five women who paved the way for equality:

Agnes Nellesen 

The Colorado Springs resident was the first woman to run to the top of Pikes Peak in a sanctioned race. At 21, she was one of two women in the inaugural Pikes Peak Footrace on June 28, 1936 — an event held to celebrate the opening of the Pikes Peak Highway as a free road. Nellesen was the only female finisher at 6 hours, 42 minutes on a course 1.1 miles shorter than the current Ascent course.

Arlene Stine

The 79-year-old former Colorado Springs resident, previously with a last name of Pieper, unofficially broke Nellesen’s record at the 1958 Pikes Peak or Bust Marathon, climbing the mountain in 5:59:18. But there wasn’t an Ascent race, so Stine, then 28, was disqualified because she stopped at the top. A year later, Stine completed the Marathon in 9:16 on a course 1.85 miles shorter than the current Marathon course, becoming the first woman to officially finish a U.S. marathon. Her 9-year-old daughter, Kathy Pieper, took third in the 1959 Ascent at 5:44:52.

Katherine Heard-Fahl
The late Colorado Springs resident was a pioneer in the Ascent, her continual presence persuading other women to make the trek up Pikes Peak. In 1959, she beat Stine (who continued on in the Marathon) by 4 minutes for her only Ascent win — not bad for a 59-year-old grandmother. Heard-Fahl followed with three runner-up finishes and a third-place showing in the Ascent. Her husband, the late Rudy Fahl, organized the 1956 Pike Sesquicentennial Marathon and logged 15 entries in the Ascent and Marathon from 1957 to 1981.

Annabel Marsh

She ran the Ascent 15 times and the Marathon three times from 1975 to 1995 and played a vital role in the 1975 formation of “Peak Busters,” an organization that helps women prepare for the Ascent and Marathon. In 1984, she teamed with Caroline Merrill in becoming the first women to run across the country, spanning 3,261 miles in four months. Marsh died in November at 85, with 100 marathons to her credit.

Charlene Aldridge

The 61-year-old former Colorado Springs resident has competed in the Ascent or Marathon 22 straight years — the longest streak by a woman. Her best finishes were 39th in the 1988 Ascent and 41st in the 1994 Marathon. Aldridge, of Fort Wayne, Ind., finished only the Marathon last year — a snowstorm near the summit wreaked havoc on the Ascent field — after completing both races the previous 11 years. She’ll try a double this weekend.

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