MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. – (UPDATE: SATURDAY, AUG. 18)
Organizers of the annual Pikes Peak Ascent have shortened Saturday’s race because of the possibility of severe weather.
The decision was made two hours before the scheduled 7 a.m. start time and affects 1,800 runners who each paid $160 to register.
Organizers said lightning and hail are possible near the Peak summit and also expressed concern about thunderstorms and hail at lower elevations, similar to a hailstorm that swept through town Friday afternoon.
Instead of running 13 miles from Manitou Springs City Hall to the summit, participants will end the race at Barr Camp, a distance of 7.6 miles, and walk back to town via Barr Trail.
“Our policy is safety first,” organizers said.
According to organizers, it’s only the second time the race has been shortened in its 63-year history. In 2008, snow and cold temperatures kept runners from reaching the summit.
Organizers expect a better weather forecast for Sunday’s marathon, for which 800 runners registered.
After a series of hailstorms in El Paso County this summer and another one Friday in Manitou Springs, organizers of and runners in the annual Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon this weekend are anxious about the weather.
Marble-sized hail dented vehicles, cracked windshields and scattered shredded tree debris on Friday afternoon in the town that is hosting the event for the 63rd time.
Strong storms are expected in the area on Saturday afternoon.
“Having a 7 a.m. start hopefully will help us avoid any storms,” said race president Ron Ilgen.
Ilgen said 1,800 runners have registered for Saturday’s ascent to the summit of Pikes Peak and 800 will run to the summit and back in Sunday’s marathon.
The races have achieved world-class status, Ilgen said, during a time when marathons are declining in popularity.
“We’re now one of the five most prestigious mountain races in the world,” he said. “We’re honored to have that distinction as part of the Golden Race series. The others are in Spain, France, Switzerland and Scotland. The championship’s in South Africa.”
Organizers said the Ascent and Marathon is one of the biggest events of the year for Manitou Springs.
“We’re adding new events for Sunday,” said Leslie Lewis, of the town’s Chamber of Commerce. “A pancake breakfast, sidewalk sales and live music. It gives spectators waiting for the marathon runners to come back, something fun to do.
The races start in front of City Hall on Manitou Avenue. Some nearby streets, and the Manitou Incline, will be closed for the weekend.
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