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'Pikes Peak Iron Woman' Charlene Aldridge set for 30th straight Pikes Peak Ascent, 20th double

August 18, 2016 Updated: August 19, 2016 at 8:01 am
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There is nothing, except the onset of hypothermia, that would keep Charlene Aldridge from racing in the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.

The "Pikes Peak Iron Woman" will compete in her 30th straight ascent on Saturday and her 20th consecutive double ­- that's 50 races in the 30 years - by running in the marathon on Sunday.

The longevity is impressive even knowing there were two races she was unable to finish. She counts the 2008 Ascent in her streak since she had to turn back due to a blizzard.

"I am sure they (race officials) will put asterisk by my streak for that reason, but I had sweated so much and when the wind and cold kicked in, I knew hypothermia was in effect," Aldridge, 68, said. "It was too dangerous to keep going."

While some may see that as a blemish, it's difficult to question her desire to finish when you consider she had an excellent reason to quit during the 2006 marathon.

The former Colorado Springs resident fell on her way down, knocking herself out for a short time, breaking her wrist and cracking four ribs about four miles from the finish.

After coming to, she stumbled back to her feet and denied offers of assistance from two male runners who saw her fall. Later, while clutching her injured ribs with her bad arm, she passed the next aid station and those competitors on her way to an age-group win in the marathon.

"I was a woman on a mission," she said. "The aid station folks were yelling for me but I waved them off because I knew if I stopped they would try to take me out of the race."

The two male runners later passed her, expressed their admiration for the "Pikes Peak Iron Woman" as Runner's World and Sports Illustrated would later dub her, and told race officials at the finish that she would need medical attention.

"Once I crossed the finish line, the doctors were all over me and were concerned I had injured my spleen," she said. "I had to get the doctors to release me so I could pick up my award and then they put me in the ambulance."

"It all turned out OK. I guess that was my highlight year."

It's that attitude and her longevity that has made Aldridge a reluctant race icon. On Sunday, she was at the Pikes Peak summit as part of her acclimation training when she met a couple doing their first double together this weekend.

"The wife said she was inspired by me," Aldridge said. "I hear that from people from time to time but I can't really get my head around that. I'm just an average runner who loves Pikes Peak."

Aldridge did not take up running until her late 30s and did not consider running up and down the mountain until she hiked the Barr Trail in 1987.

"I thought the people who did it must be really crazy people," she said. "(But after a Barr Trail hike with friend Carolyn Moon), I fell in love with the peak that day. It was so beautiful."

She was hooked after she finished her first Ascent at age 38.

"I loved that first race," she said. "I shed a few tears because I found out how hard it was. But it has become a part of my life."

Now, Aldridge just wants to finish each race this weekend. Muscle spasms kept her from beating the 10 hours, 30 minutes cutoff time in the 2014 marathon, even though she eventually finished the race.

"I will continue to do it as long as I can," the Fort Wayne, Ind., resident said. "I need a serious mountain fix every August."

Both races start at 7 a.m. with runners leaving in waves from the start line by Manitou Springs' Memorial Park.

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