Ascent

Kieran Nay competes in the 64th annual Pikes Peak Ascent in Manitou Springs on Aug. 24, 2019.

When Allie McLaughlin got to the last few miles of the Pikes Peak Marathon this year, she was struck by just how warm the temperatures got.

The 2020 US Trail Marathon Champion runs in all kinds of conditions, so the heat wasn’t so much a problem for McLaughlin, rather something she could simply do without.

“It wasn’t really an issue,” she said, “but it was like a sauna for the last four miles. That is one of the hottest races I’ve been in.”

Weather concerns are one reason why after 67 years of being held before Labor Day, the Pikes Peak Marathon and Pikes Peak Ascent are being moved to September 17 and 18 for the 2022 edition of the event.

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The Pikes Peak Marathon on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021.

“Weather is a constant worry with high-alpine mountain races,” Race Director Ron Ilgen said in a press release. “In September, odds may be higher for snow but lower for lightning and hail. Temperatures will also be a little cooler to help our marathon finishers, who have had to deal with record heat in recent years.” 

McLaughlin, who is an alum of Air Academy High School and the University of Colorado, competed in both parts of the event in 2021. She finished first in the ascent and second in the marathon.

When it comes to the ascent, she says there is no helping the temperatures, no matter when the race is held.

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Three-year-old Hans Thomson, jumps into his mom’s arms for a big hug after she won the women’s Pikes Peak Marathon. Stevie Kremer, a graduate of Colorado College, now lives in Crested Butte. Kremer also won the marathon in 2013.

“The ascent is always a risk for chilly at the top and hot at the bottom,” she said.

McLaughlin welcomes the change in dates for the event, saying that August is a big month for trail runners. She wants to compete in a race in France in 2022, and with the change she wouldn’t have to choose between running overseas, and competing in her hometown’s historic event.

But fellow ascent competitor and five-time champion Joseph Gray doesn’t feel the same.

He thinks moving the event back by nearly a month will actually cause more weather issues.

“My biggest fear is the weather being too severe that they might stop us part way through,” he said. “If they had a waiver of some kind, I would feel better. If you could sign it and say, ‘If it’s -30 degrees at the top, that’s OK.’ If they put the risk on you.”

As it stands, Gray said he’s less likely to participate in the marathon and ascent in 2022 because of the date changes.

According to summitpost.org, the average high for Pikes Peak in August is 48.1 degrees, the low is 32.9 degrees, and the record low is 15. Meanwhile, in September, those numbers dip to a high average of 39.2, a low average of 24.3 and a record low of 6 degrees.

Wind speeds also increase in the month of September. Going up from 15 mph at 6 a.m. and 11.5 mph at 3 p.m. in August to 17.5 mph at 6 a.m. and 15 mph at 3 p.m.

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Allie McLaughlin, 30, nears the finish during the Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday, August 21, 2021. McLaughlin, an Air Academy High School and University of Colorado alum and winner of the 2014 Ascent, finished one second ahead of Ashley Brasovan in 2:49:39. The 13.3-mile Pikes Peak Ascent begins in front of the City Hall in Manitou Springs and continues up Barr Trail, with an elevation gain of 7,800 feet to the summit of America’s Mountain at 14,115 feet. Racers were challenged by the 30 degree weather, high winds and poor visibility once above tree line and to the summit.

The chance of snow from August to September doesn’t see a significant change, with an average of nine snow days in August and 10 in September. However, the chance of rain and hail, which Ilgen cited as a main concern with the race staying in August, goes down from 19 days to 10 days on average in September.

Another issue the event is trying to avoid is the hustle and bustle of tourist season in Manitou Springs, which is at its busiest in late August, when the marathon and ascent usually takes place. The change in dates also puts more time between the marathon and ascent and other Colorado races, such as the Leadville Trail 100 Run, which takes place on August 21 and 22.

Registration for the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent opens on March 1.

Contact the writer: eden.laase@gazette.com

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