Pikes Peak Marathon Felix Wong

When I signed up for it on March 1st, the Pikes Peak Marathon seemed like as good of an idea to me as, say, the invention of the flushing toilet—as it probably was to the other 1000 folks who exuberantly charged $90 to their credit cards within the first 24 hours of online registration. After all, what could be more fun than running 26.2 miles up and down a mountain so high (14,000′) that trees cannot subsist in its oxygen-deprived environment, with lung-busting steepness and ankle-rolling singletrack replete with ruts and boulders?

“I dunno, golf?” you may sardonically reply. If you did, guess what—you might be correct! Or at least that is what I was thinking as gasped for air still one mile from the top and not even halfway through the race yet, shuffling my feet with the energy level of a 96-year-old man being helped through a convalescent hospital in his wheelchair.

I wasn’t always feeling that way during this beautiful August day along the Front Range of Colorado. In fact, as I gazed from the race start of Manitou Springs upon the jagged heights lit by a scarlett sunrise in the distance, I felt positively inspired—just as Katharine Lee Bates may have when she wrote the song “America the Beautiful” after traveling to the top of Pikes in 1893.

Then again, Bates got to the top of the mountain in a carriage pulled by horses. In contrast, I was running with my own two legs—or at least trying to. My experience was summed up in the following email excerpts I wrote shortly after the race:

It started out well. I ran the first 7 miles (which was 99% uphill) and was within the top 100/1000. Then I started hiking, and even though almost everyone else was too, many people started passing me, esp. between Miles 11-13, when I had some sort of altitude sickness and it was taking me 35 minutes to go one mile!

Not helping was the trail was super technical. So despite gravity assistance, I was only doing 16-minute miles when I started the downhills, which was slower than when I was running the uphill!

Worse, (due to the trail being so technical), I hyperextended my right knee about a dozen times when I tried to start running again, resulting in a sharp, jabbing pain. Ultimately, because of this knee problem I gave up on running and walked most of the 2nd half. Kind of frustrating because my legs actually were feeling quite fresh…

The only good part of the day aside from the first 7 miles was the last 0.9, when we finally hit pavement again. The pavement felt FAR better on my right leg than the trail, and I was able to let it all out. I think a lot of runners/spectactors were surprised to see me running that last 0.9 at 6-minute pace after turning in many 16-20 minute miles (last mile split was actually 7:33, including walking the first 0.1 while still on the trail), but my legs were pretty fresh aside from the knee thing. Still feel way more at home on the road than the trail. Oh well, it could have been worse, I could have fallen.

While the steep, rocky course and high elevations contributed to my undoing, running a total of 11.7 miles in July probably did not help either. At least the weather was good during the race—I did not even have to don my fleece cap or windbreaker at the top!


  • 7:25:39 (17:01/mi pace)
  • Overall: 336/528
  • Age group:48/61

Time Splits

Mile 1: 14:30
Mile 2: 14:08
Mile 3: 18:21
Mile 4: 14:52
Mile 5: 11:20
Mile 6: 13:05
Mile 7: 14:28
Mile 8: 16:21
Mile 9: 20:27
Mile 10: 22:37
Mile 11: 20:49
Mile 12: 32:00
Mile 13: 35:14
Mile 14: 20:35
Mile 15: 16:29
Mile 16: 11:48
Mile 17: 16:38
Mile 18: 12:51
Mile 19: 13:32
Mile 20: 15:20
Mile 21: 16.25
Mile 22: 11:27
Mile 23: 17:03
Mile 24: 21:01
Mile 25: 16:36
Mile 26: 7:33

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[Mile 0, 6:47am] The sun rose over Pikes Peak with reddish colors before the race.[Mile 0, 6:57am] "America the Beautiful" -- which was inspired by Pikes Peak -- was sung as everyone lined up for the start of the race.[Mile 1, 0:13 into the race] Runners leave the pavement and hit the trail.[Mile 2.1, 0:33 elapsed] Hardly two miles into the race, some people were already walking![Mile 2.7, 0:41 elapsed] America the beautiful, indeed.[Mile 6, 1:30 elapsed] The race begins to rise above the clouds.[Mile 10, 2:39 elapsed] The race begins to ascend above the tree line (~12,000 feet), and I really begin to falter in the altitude.[Mile 12, 3:33 elapsed] At least the view from up here was great.[Mile 12.6, 3:54 elapsed] Almost at the top, the trail switched back and forth as runners went up it like a trail of ants.[Mile 13.1, 4:08 elapsed] It took me an astounding 35 minutes to do the last mile but I made it to the top.  Now just have to go back down...[Mile 18.9, 5:36 elapsed] The field had spread out and much less runners were in sight.  At least the scenery was great as I walked and hobbled down the trail...Felix, feeling at home at pavement, running for the first time in miles!  Unfortunately the pavement was only the last 0.9 miles... Photo: marathonfoto.com.

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