Megan Kimmel had not run the Pikes Peak Marathon in nearly 10 years, but the 38-year-old runner out of Ridgway spent much of Sunday’s descent contemplating whether or not to go for a record-breaking time.
Kimmel reached the summit in 2 hours, 42 minutes, giving her a nine-minute head start on the women’s field for the way back to Manitou Springs.
“I took note of what my time was up top, and I was like ‘I think it’s still doable,’” Kimmel recalled thinking. “At Barr Camp, I was kinda like ‘Ah, I don’t have it.’”
While she didn’t think she’d be breaking Lynn Bjorklund’s record set in 1981, Kimmel kept a solid pace to keep distance between her and the competition.
Her mindset changed once more, however.
“It wasn’t until I hit the pavement on Ruxton (Avenue) that someone was like, ‘You can do it. There’s time,’ ” Kimmel said.
“That’s when I kicked it.”
Her only remaining issue was figuring out the exact time she needed. Kimmel said she knew the record was just a little over 4 hours, 15 minutes but didn’t know how many seconds she had to work with.
“Once you get closer to the finish line here, people really keep you going for sure,” Kimmel said. “But I have to say, I didn’t notice it that much because I was so focused on the time and the finish that I kinda had tunnel vision going on.”
The focus paid off as Kimmel stormed through the tape in 4:15:04, good for a new record and the 14th-best overall time.
Kimmel chalked up her performance to living at altitude and near-ideal conditions a day after the Ascent was shortened due to expected weather. She was able to complete the marathon in a sleeveless racing top without slowing to add or remove layers.
As good as she was Sunday, Kimmel doesn’t sound certain she’s peaked.
“There wasn’t any particular reason I hadn’t been back in eight years,” Kimmel said. “I’d actually really like to come back with a little more focus, I think.”
Durango’s Dakota Jones wins marathon on first try
Dakota Jones’ method of transportation to his first Pikes Peak Marathon had him a little concerned heading into Sunday’s race.
Jones made the trip from Durango to Manitou Springs on a bike — the kind you pedal — as part of a fundraiser for Protect Our Winters, a non-profit climate advocacy group. He covered the 250 miles over four days, which he thought would be leisurely enough.
“I was wrecked,” Jones said. “I was a little nervous the day or two after I finished.”
It hardly showed Sunday.
Jones was second to the summit, trailing Colorado Springs runner Darren Beck Thomas by just over a minute.
While Thomas turned right around the summit checkpoint, grabbing liquid from his pack in the process, Jones took a full stop to hydrate, knowing his time to make a move was still to come.
“As far as my strengths go, it’s downhill. I hoped to set it up that way,” Jones said. “I was like ‘If I can’t get to the summit first, as long as I’m in striking distance I can have a chance in the downhill.’”
While Jones wasn’t familiar with Thomas’ abilities, he was right. Jones caught the then-leader right around timberline.
In a stretch of the descent where the terrain was flat or even uphill, Jones could sense Thomas on his tail. A couple close calls with cramping in his inner thigh didn’t help, either.
“I was running scared for sure,” Jones said.
Jones held on to the lead and was the first person back to Manitou Avenue, finishing in 3:32:19.
In the next day or two, he’ll hop back on the bike and make his home.
“Today was my day,” Jones said. “I got lucky. Next time, maybe somebody else will, but I just feel grateful to have today.”