August 7, 2014 Vol. 13 No. 37
Marathon organizers ready for crunch time
Written by Larry Ferguson   

County's first retail marijuana store opens in Manitou Springs


TThe line was long on opening day at Maggie's Farm retail marijuana store in Manitou Springs last week despite intermittent rain showers that kept some customers away. Some customers showed up in the early morning and waited for about eight hours for the doors to open in the afternoon. Store managers said the opening went smoothly, and they reported no problems or serious traffic snarls.

Photo by Larry Ferguson


At the Triple Crown of Running headquarters in Manitou Springs, the pace is always fast and usually a bit frantic, but during the coming week it’s guaranteed to be all-out hectic.

“If we get five hours of sleep on race weekend, we’ll be lucky,” said Ron Ilgen, president of Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc. “We’ll be running on adrenaline.”

Ilgen should know. He and Susan Guynn, the operations team lead, have logged years of experience in staging one of the biggest and most demanding annual events in the Pikes Peak region, the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon.

This year the races are scheduled for Aug. 16 and 17. By the time they’re done, they will have involved the efforts of nearly 800 race workers and volunteers, along with dozens of area organizations ranging from police and fire departments to county search-and-rescue teams and medical workers.

Nearly 2,500 runners and their families are expected to descend on the region.

080714_RonIlgen“We could probably easily double the number of runners,” Ilgen said, “but the number is limited by U.S. Forest Service regulations, which mostly address safety concerns. We have to be able to get runners off the mountain quickly in case of bad weather.”

Ilgen, who has served as the race director of both the Ascent and Marathon since 2005, oversees a collection of groups and individuals that comprise the Pikes Peak Marathon Committee. Each is in charge of specific aspects of the race such as administration, rescue and medical, communications, transportation, timing and volunteer coordination.

But one of the most crucial functions falls to Guynn, who is in charge of the operations team.

“We’re responsible for making sure every piece of equipment gets to where it needs to be,” she said, “and we coordinate with a lot of groups, including contractors, city officials from both Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, public safety organizations such as police and fire departments, and the Manitou Springs Public Works Department. A lot of preparation goes into these races.”

One of the biggest responsibilities for the operations team this year will be supplying water to the eight aid stations located at intervals along the 13.32-mile course that stretches from Manitou to the 14,115-foot summit.

In previous years, a team from Colorado Springs Utilities handled the water source logistics; this year it’s up to the operations team.

“We’ve got 10 tanks that hold a total of 3,480 gallons,” Guynn said. Trucks using Forest Service roads will deliver most of the tanks to the aid stations; however, at two stations – Barr Camp and A Frame — volunteers will spend the race weekend hand-pumping creek water through a filtering system to ensure runners have a water supply.

080714_SusanGuynn“It’s hard-core work,” Guynn said.

At the Cirque station located just below the summit, operations teams plan to use 12 garden hoses, each 150 feet long, to transfer water down from the summit.

Another logistical challenge facing race organizers is transporting Ascent runners off the summit while at the same time transporting visiting tourists from a staging area at Devil’s Playground to the summit. The arrangement is necessary because there’s simply not enough space at the summit to accommodate race equipment, aid station supplies, race vehicles and tourist traffic.

“It’s one of the busiest days on the Peak in the entire year,” Ilgen said.

Timing teams will be present on the course at No Name Creek, Barr Camp and the A Frame to provide runners will split times. Also, 75 volunteers will be at the summit serving runners food and drink, helping with medical services, announcing the Ascent runners as they finish and, most importantly, cheering while placing finisher medals around Ascent competitors’ necks.

Setting up and maintaining the Marathon finish line on Manitou Avenue near its intersection with Ruxton Avenue is another complicated undertaking, requiring a coordinated effort by police, medical workers, timers and communication personnel.

Scaffolding and banners put up at the starting line in the morning will be packed and moved to the finish line while runners are on the course. Marathon runners are allotted 10 hours to complete the race, so the finish line area and its medical tent will be open and manned until 5 p.m. that day.

Not to be overlooked are several pre-race and post-race events which are also handled by Ascent/Marathon workers. Those include a “carbo feed” consisting of unlimited pasta and potatoes for runners served by the Kiwanis Club before both the Ascent and the Marathon; a press conference scheduled for Friday of the coming week; awards ceremonies for both races, slated for Saturday in the Expo tent at Memorial Park for the Ascent and on Sunday at Soda Springs Park for the Marathon.

And then there is the post-race cleanup of the course, finish line, and other facilities, and the packing of all the equipment, signs and banners until next time.

All in all, it’s easy to see why the annual Ascent and Marathon races require the efforts of so many organizations and volunteers.

“We print 750 T-shirts for race workers,” Ilgen said, “and they’re all gone by the time it’s over.”

He went on to say that past studies show the annual races pump $2.5 million into the Pike Peak region’s economy

“That study was in 2005. I’m guessing that figure is closer to $3 million today,” he said.