Japanese runner stands tall at first Pikes Peak Marathon
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The first place winner of the Pikes Peak Marathon was Touru Miyahara of Japan on Sunday, August 18, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

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Monster Tajima, you have company. There's another king of Pikes Peak who hails from the land of the rising sun.

Touru Miyahara of Gotemba City, located on the southeastern edge of Mount Fuji, pulled away from Colorado College graduate Alex Nichols in the last half mile Sunday, becoming the first Asian to win the Pikes Peak Marathon that started and ended in downtown Manitou Springs.

Competing in his first Pikes Peak Marathon, the 30-year-old road-racing specialist maneuvered the course more like Tajima, the boisterous driver who has 10 racing titles at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

The end result surprised even Miyahara, who recorded a winning time of 3:43:23, just 22 seconds ahead of Alex Nichols, a Colorado College graduate and assistant coach of the Tigers' cross country and track teams.

"I'm not good at descending," Miyahara said through a translator. "I was worried about how I'd do in a race like this. I didn't have the expectation of winning, but I did want to finish first on the ascent. The fact that I finished second in that and came back to win was a huge accomplishment."

Miyahara passed Jason Delaney, last year's Pikes Peak Ascent champion, on the way down the mountain near the A-Frame checkpoint. He maintained that lead past the Ruxton checkpoint that serves as the homestretch of the 26.2-mile journey.

It was there that Nichols took over, but only briefly, as Miyahara reclaimed the lead with about 500 meters to go.

"At Ruxton, we were together, and I tried to take the lead when it got really steep," Nichols said. "But when it evened out, I just ran out of gas. I couldn't keep that pace. I could do it for a little bit, but I didn't have that extra gear today."

Stevie Kremer did. The Crested Butte schoolteacher led from start to finish in the women's division, setting an age-group division record with a time of 4:17:10. Kremer, 29, also set an age-group record by descending Pikes Peak in 1:33:08, a minute better than the previous mark.

Like Miyahara, Kremer claimed the title on her first quest up and down Pikes Peak.

"I paced myself on the uphill, and I was wondering if I could have gone faster," Kremer said. "That helped with my downhill and was able to go a lot faster than I expected there. Normally, the downhill isn't my strength. I was nervous about the altitude, but all my runs prepared me well for this race."

Kremer on Wednesday returned from Europe after first spending the school year teaching at an international school in Italy, then the past two-plus months traveling and racing.

"I like being busy," Kremer said. "But it's nice to be back."

Miyahara traveled to Colorado to compete in the Skyrunner World Series circuit event, its only race in the United States. Having conquered Pikes Peak once, the soft-spoken runner and member of the Japanese military soon will ponder whether he'll come back to defend his crown.

"I really want to come back," Miyahara said. "I'm not sure yet. We'll see how it goes."

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