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With registration near, Pikes Peak Marathon to welcome runners on elite circuit

March 7, 2018 Updated: March 7, 2018 at 9:26 am
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A group of runners near the finish line as they take part in the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday, August 19, 2017 in Colorado Springs. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette)

When runners register Saturday for the Pikes Peak Marathon, they'll join the most competitive field in the event's 63-year history, race director Ron Ilgen says.

That's because the international Golden Trail Series chose America's Mountain as one of its five sites.

The series, sponsored by sporting goods company Salomon, aims to highlight elite runners on some of the globe's more iconic trails.

After a marathon through the mountains above Zegama, Spain, another up France's Mont Blanc and the Sierre-Zinal over five Swiss peaks above 13,000 feet, they'll come to Barr Trail on Aug. 19 for a 26.21-mile test.

Pikes Peak is the highest point of the series, which also includes Scotland's Ring of Steall Skyrace. After those events, the men and women with the 10 best résumés will be invited to the grand finale on South Africa's Otter Trail for a share of the $123,000 purse.

The storyline of this year's Marathon? "Locals going up with these world-class runners," Ilgen says. "Locals who know the course and train on the course, how will they stack up with some of the best?"

The scamper up and down the 14,115-foot mountain hasn't been in this caliber of international series since 2006, Ilgen says, for the World Mountain Running Association championship.

Since then, Pikes Peak Marathon Inc. formed a jury of appeals and enlisted more course marshals to oversee any trail cutting - an issue that arose in 2004 when foreign runners took shortcuts in the year the marathon was added to the Skyrunner World Series.

Ilgen says more enforcement will accompany the August race.

"The Europeans are kind of point-to-point runners," he says. "Especially at the summit, there are switchbacks where people will slow down, and the temptation is to go around them. ... We really try to inform them in advance that that's not allowed. You can't run a marathon and cut off a block or whatever."

Among runners expected are Switzerland's Remi Bonnet, last year's Marathon champion, and Emelie Forsberg, who came from Sweden to win the 2012 Marathon.

Those registering for the Marathon or Pikes Peak Ascent, a 13.32-mile race to the summit Aug. 18, also can register for the Triple Crown of Running. The series includes the Garden of the Gods Ten Mile Run on June 10, the Summer Roundup on July 8, and the Ascent or uphill portion of the Marathon.

The second leg of the Triple Crown will feature a new distance and a new venue. After nearly two decades of a 12K at Bear Creek Regional Park, runners in the Summer Roundup will compete in a half marathon at Cheyenne Mountain State Park.

"It was becoming a little crowded" at Bear Creek, Ilgen says, and the backdrop of the region's second most famous mountain seemed a better fit for the city's trail running showcase.

After steady price increases in recent years, registration for the Ascent is the same as last year at $160. Signing up for the Marathon is $190, $10 down from 2017.

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