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On the run: Want to climb Pikes Peak? Train for it

By: Tommy Manning Special to The Gazette
July 4, 2013
photo - On the run Tommy Manning
On the run Tommy Manning 

The Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon is coming up in just more than a month.

Hundreds will come to our city to run up America's Greatest Mountain, and some even choose to turn around and run back down. Very few of these people actually are "racing" or trying to earn a spot on the podium, however.

The goal for the vast majority is simply to make it to the summit of Pikes Peak and then cross the item off their bucket list. What an amazing accomplishment - to say you have climbed to the top of a 14,115-foot mountain! And anyone can do it.

As residents of the Pikes Peak region, we don't have to sign up for the Ascent or Marathon to go up the mountain; we can go climb it any day we want. And is there a better time to climb the beautiful mountain than July or August?

I know way too many people who have lived here for five, 10 or 15 years and never climbed Pikes Peak. What a shame. I think anyone and everyone should do it. The view from the top and the sense of accomplishment is hard to beat. So make it a goal this summer.

One thing you should remember - whether you want to run or hike the mountain - is to train. It would be foolish for a person who is not very fit to drive to Barr Trail one morning and think they are going to climb Pikes Peak in one day like some type of weekend warrior.

Instead, you need to get out of the house, get on trails and train uphill for your climb. Doing push-ups and sit-ups at home won't help you get to the top.

Barr Trail is a great trail. Whether you go up the Incline or go up the trail and all of the switchbacks, Barr Trail offers a lot of elevation gain and is a tremendous workout. But your training doesn't have to be on Barr Trail. Cheyenne Ca?n has great trails, as do many other areas around town.

I like to run Barr Trail, Cap'n Jacks in Cheyenne Ca?n and Trail 666 in Cheyenne Ca?n. I am sure you can find trails you like just as much with a little scouting. The point is if you want to climb Pikes Peak, then you have to train for it and train uphill as you need to prepare for a 13.3-mile climb. Jog, hike or walk on trails for an hour and do a little more each time.

When you are ready to go for the summit, I suggest you leave early. I see way too many people loaded down with a bunch of gear near the bottom of Barr Trail just getting started at 9 a.m. as I'm finishing a two-hour run. I feel bad for them because by 9 a.m. it is starting to get warm and they are in for a long, hot hike in the sun. Hopefully, these people plan to camp and summit the next day as opposed to going all the way to the top after a late start.

If you want to summit in one day, I would start no later than 7 a.m. Then you can avoid the heat for a few hours and hopefully make it to the top and get off the mountain before afternoon thunderstorms arrive. I'm never high on that mountain late in the afternoon because I'm afraid of lightning.

So I hope you get to the top of Pikes Peak this summer whether it's your first time or 30th. And if you see me on the trail, please stop to say hello!


Manning is a member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team and a math teacher at Fountain Valley School. Read his columns on the first Thursday of each month in Out There.

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