As a child growing up in a house on Golden Hills Road, Megan Leatham could sit on her porch, look to the west and see the towering and majestic Pikes Peak.
This was, and is, an incredible vista, but this was, and is, an everyday Colorado Springs experience. She later worked as a waitress at downtown’s (now closed) Giuseppe’s Old Depot Restaurant in a dining room blessed with a superb view of the mountain. She once ran all the way to the top of America’s Mountain as a competitor in The Ascent.
She was never moved to great inner joy, or great inner anything, by the sight of this massive mountain.
“It was always just normal,” Leatham says. “Pikes Peak was always just normal to me until I started this job.”
Leatham, a Springs native, now works as Executive Director of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. She talks about Pikes Peak as if the mountain is a person. This practice, by the way, makes sense to me.
She’s not sure if the mountain is a friend, or foe. On some days it manages to be both.
“It didn’t awe me or humble me the way it does now,” she says.
Now, when she looks at her friend/foe, she’s filled with respect and fear.
“She is a very, very challenging mountain,” Leatham says. “I’ve learned very quickly with this job that nature always humbles you. I look at her and wonder what challenges she will bring.”
Leatham might not seem a natural for her job. She was a basketball star at Air Academy High and later competed for the Whitman College Missionaries. She coached girls basketball four seasons at Rampart High before departing with a bang in 2014, leading the Rams to a 20-6 record and the 5A quarterfinals.
She is, obviously, a basketball devotee. She had never seen the Hill Climb before she started working with the Hill Climb team.
“But,” she says, “I’m a sports freak and an organizational freak. My job is to create an event that is spectacular for the racers and spectators.
“I honestly don’t care who wins. I treat every competitor the same. Regardless of who they are, I still need their paperwork.
“I’m not star-struck by any competitors. To me, I’ve got to get my job done. I see things from a very broad perspective from what’s best for the event.”
The Hill Climb has endured a struggle to survive during its more than a century of existence. The event is, in many ways, thriving. Sponsorships and attendance are solid. The race draws competitors and spectators from across the globe.
Leatham works every day of the year for a one-day race. She oversees volunteers and permits and spectator control and the media. She’s become an expert administrator.
But she can’t tame the mountain, and she knows it. She can’t control the weather, which can be glorious one hour and fierce the next.
And she can’t control the danger factor. Two motorcycle competitors have died in the past three years.
How often does she ponder competitor safety?
“All day every day,” she answers quickly. “It’s dangerous, there’s no hiding that. When I wake up that morning, the very first thing that crosses my mind is: I hope no one gets hurt today.”
In 1916, Spencer Penrose had this wild idea:
Why don’t we conduct a race to the top of our really huge mountain?
What a stupendous, reckless concept.
It’s Leatham’s job to multiply the stupendous while minimizing the reckless.