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2019 Pikes Peak Marathon Women’s Preview

An in-depth preview of the women’s field at the 2019 Pikes Peak Marathon.

By on August 19, 2019 | Comments

2019 Pikes Peak Marathon - Golden Trail SeriesThe Pikes Peak Marathon is one of the classic mountain races in Colorado, the U.S., and, indeed, the world. Its premise is simple: run from the town of Manitou Springs, up to the summit of nearby Pikes Peak, and back down to Manitou Springs. It just so happens that they’re able to make a perfect marathon-length route between those points, starting at 6,300 feet, summiting at 14,115 feet, and ending back in town at 6,345 feet. Over the years, Pikes Peak Marathon (PPM) has been part of various international series and championships, and this year it’s part of  the Golden Trail Series (GTS) for the second-consecutive year. This year’s race takes place on Sunday, August 25th.

Four of last year’s top-ten women will be returning for this year’s race, including Megan Kimmel who set the Pikes Peak Marathon course record in a historic run last year with a time of 4:15:04. The previous record of 4:15:18, just 14 seconds slower, had been held by Lynn Bjorkland since 1981.

Thanks to Salomon for making our coverage of this year’s Pikes Peak Marathon possible!

Read our men’s preview to find out who else is racing on Sunday. Be sure to follow along with our live coverage of the race starting at 7:00 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time in the U.S. on Sunday, August 25th.

[Editor’s Note: With two entrants lists and some very late additions to the field, the elite field is a moving target. Please leave a comment letting us know of other top entrants!]

The Women Most Likely to Win

Megan Kimmel

Megan Kimmel won’t be racing as she recovers from injury. [Updated 8/21] After a five-year absence from the event, Megan Kimmel returned to the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2018 and won in a women’s course-record time of 4:15:04. Her 2019 season’s been a bit more uneven than we’re used to with a tenth place at the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon in May and a DNF at the Mont-Blanc Marathon in June. On the other hand, Kimmel was third at the Transvulcania Ultramarathon in May and won the 52-kilometer event at the Broken Arrow Skyrace in June.

If you’re outside of Europe, it’s quite likely that you’ve never heard of Switzerland’s Maude Mathys until this year as she’s an infrequent trail racer who largely sticks to races of marathon and shorter length as well as being a ski mountaineer. Her earlier career highlights include a 2012 win at the Mont-Blanc Marathon (to go along with a second in 2014 and third in 2013), and a second at the 2018 World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) World Championships. This year, she took third at July’s Dolomites Skyrace before setting a five-minute course record at Sierre-Zinal just a few weeks ago. In 2015, Mathys received a warning without suspension from the Disciplinary Chamber for Doping Cases of Swiss Olympic for two positive tests for clomifene (previously clomiphene) after it was determined that she was mistakenly taking the drug without first obtaining a World Anti-Doping Agency Therapeutic Use Exemption.

A late find on the RunSignup.com entrants lists (but not the pikespeakmarathon.org list) is Ethiopian living in the U.S. Hirut Guangul, the 2015 PPM champion in a time of 4:29:06. The only faster time by a current women’s entrant that I can find is Anita Ortiz’s 4:28:20 back in 2009. Guangul has a road marathon PR of 2:34:02 from October 2012. She has also served a pair of doping sanctions, first a 4-month suspension issued by USADA for methylhexanamine (DMAA) from October 2013 to February 2014 for a May 2013 infraction at the Pittsburgh Marathon and, then, a 2-year suspension issued by the IAAF again for DMAA from August 2016 to August 2018 at the Kuala Lumpur Marathon in August 2016. [Added 8/22 8:30 p.m.]

Eli Anne Dvergsdal has the flu and won’t be traveling to run PPM. [Update 8/21] Norway’s Eli Anne Dvergsdal has had a breakout year and has the talent for a podium finish at PPM. Focusing on the GTS this year, Dvergsdal has won the Zegama Marathon, been third at the Mont-Blanc Marathon, and dropped out of Sierre-Zinal. Previously, she been fifth at the Dolomites Skyrace in 2015 and 45th at last year’s WMRA World Championships. Dvergsdal has won national championships at 3,000 meters on the track and is a former soccer player.

Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo won’t be able to swing the travel to run PPM this year. [Update 8/21] Without having won a big race yet this year, Italy’s Silvia Rampazzo is having quite the season with a sixth at the Trail World Championships (44k), second at the Mont-Blanc Marathon, seventh at the Dolomites Skyrace, and a third at Sierre-Zinal. She had a mixed 2018 season with highlights that included a win a Giir di Mont and a sixth at the Mont-Blanc Marathon, but that was nothing in comparison to her 2017 when Rampazzo won the WMRA Long Distance World Championships (30k), took second at the Zegama Marathon, was third at the Trail World Championships (49k), was fourth at the Dolomites Skyrace, and was fifth at Sierre-Zinal.

Ragna Debats

It looks like Ragna Debats will be focusing on next week’s CCC and not running PPM. [Updated 8/22] Ragna Debats of the Netherlands (but living in Spain) has raced a ton the past four years with tons of success along the way. Among that racing, she won last year’s Trail World Championships (85k), this year’s Marathon des Sables, and this year’s Transvulcania Ultramarathon and that’s to go with numerous other wins and podium finishes. Her biggest blemish during this period was her DNF at the Trail World Championships (44k) in early June after having raced more than 350 miles (in no single effort longer than roughly 80k) in a three-month stretch from early February to early May. Debats has raced Megan Kimmel at the high-altitude Yading Skyrun three of the past four years, but has never been close.

We first witnessed Frenchwoman Amandine Ferrato’s ability when she took second at the 49k Trail World Championships in Italy in 2017. However, before that she’s already been fifth and second at the Mont-Blanc Marathon in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and second at the 2016 French Trail Championships (30k). Later in 2017 and in 2018, she’d was third at the 2017 Sierre-Zinal, 14th at the 2018 Trail World Championships (85k), ninth at the 2018 Mont-Blanc Marathon, and fourth that the Grand Trail des Templiers. This year so far, she’s taken third at Zegama and, then, eighth at the Mont-Blanc Marathon before taking 17th at the Dolomites Skyrace and 16th at Sierre-Zinal, making me wonder if she’s battling injury or fatigue at the moment.

Other Women at the Front

Holly Page - 2018 Ring of Steall Skyrace

Holly Page

It looks like the UK’s Holly Page is running Matterhorn Ultraks rather than PPM this weekend. [Updated 8/21] The U.K.’s Holly Page had a breakout international trail running season last year, helped along by a massive schedule around the globe including running the GTS, in which she placed third for the season. Highlights from 2018 include a win at the Yading Skyrun, a third-place at the Ring of Steall Skyrace, and a win at the GTS finale Otter Trail. In this year’s GTS, she’s been 11th at the Dolomites Skyrace last month and eighth at Sierre-Zinal, where she ran five minutes faster than last year.

Taylor Nowlin won’t be racing this year’s PPM. [Updated 8/20Taylor Nowlin has plenty of fast finishes over the past couple years, including taking second and seventh at the past two Lake Sonoma 50 milers. More relevant to PPM are her pair of second-place finishes at the past two Speedgoat 50ks along with her third place and even faster fourth place at the Kendall Mountain Run in 2016 and 2017.

2016 The Rut 28k - Yngvild Kaspersen

Yngvild Kaspersen

It’s hard to believe that Norway’s Yngvild Kaspersen (pre-race interview) is only 24 years old. She jumped onto the international scene with the Skyrunner World Series in 2015 and 2016, during which time she was sixth at the 2015 Sierre-Zinal, sixth and fifth at the Dolomites Skyrace in 2015 and 2016, second at the Run the Rut 28k in 2016, and second at the 2016 Grand Trail des Templiers. Then, she raced far less in 2017 and 2018 before jumping back in with a fuller schedule this year including a sixth place at Zegama. Kaspersen raced the Aspen Backcountry Half Marathon last weekend, so it’s possible that she’s been acclimating to high altitude in Colorado Rockies.

While she’s been racing for a while in her home country of South Africa, Meg Mackenzie’s (pre-race interview) taken a step forward this year. Last year, she ran the GTS, taking 13th at Zegama, eighth at the Mont-Blanc Marathon, 25th at Sierre-Zinal, 14th at Ring of Steall, and sixth at Otter Trail. While she did DNF at Zegama this year, she’s also been sixth at Mont-Blanc Marathon (15 minutes faster that 2018) and eighth at the Dolomites Skyrace.

Her fifth at last year’s PPM must be one of the top highlights in Frenchwoman Céline Lafaye’s trail running career. Other highlights include a third at the 2011 Sierre-Zinal, a third at the Mont-Blanc Marathon in 2013 and 2015, third at the 2016 Limonextreme, and a sixth at the 2017 Trail World Championships (49km). This year, Lafaye has taken sixth at the 25k French Trail Championships, 20th at the Dolomites Skyrace, and 21st at the Mont-Blanc Marathon.

Fanny Borgström won’t be racing PPM this year. [Updated 8/22] Sweden’s Fanny Borgström started making a name for herself internationally last year as a GTS participant when she was seventh at the Mont-Blanc Marathon, 21st at Sierre-Zinal, sixth at the Ring of Steall Skyrace, and fourth at Otter Trail to go along with placing 17th at the Trail World Championships (85k). She started this year off by placing 12th at the Trail World Championships (44k) before moving on to take fourth at the Mont-Blanc Marathon and 12th at the Dolomites Skyrace. She’s won the Fjällmarathon each of the past two years as well.

This is Spaniard Eli Gordón’s (pre-race interview) second year taking part in the GTS. She started off strong last year, placing eighth at Zegama, third at the Mont-Blanc Marathon, and seventh at Sierre-Zinal, which was good enough to take fourth in last year’s overall GTS. Since then, she’s had subpar results at three of her next four GTS races, DNFing the Ring of Steall Skyrace and taking fifth at the Otter Trail late last year, and placing 21st at the Dolomites Skyrace and 17th at Sierre-Zinal this year.

Anita Ortiz - 2013 Speedgoat 50k

Anita Ortiz

Next up are a pair of women whose experience on Pikes Peak could have them besting folks who might otherwise outrun them. First off is Anita Ortiz who has started the Pikes Peak Ascent (PPA) nine times and the PPM five times (with one DNF). She won PPA four-straight years from 2001 to 2004 and won the PPM in 2009 (4:28:20) and 2014 (5:00:54). More recently, Ortiz took second in 2016 (4:47:03) and eighth last year (5:19:50).

Then, there’s Salynda Heinl (formerly Fleury) who has eight PPM finishes to go with one at PPA. She won the PPM in 2007 (5:00:42), ran her fastest time en route to second in 2013 (4:46:32), and more recently took fifth in 2015 (5:04:45) and fourth in 2016 (5:02:23).

As far as I can tell, Corey Conner is fairly new to trail racing, but she’s putting up solid results. She was seventh at last November’s Moab Trail Marathon, fourth at February’s Fourmidable 50k, and first at the Quad Rock 25 Mile in May.

Other Women to Watch Out For

  • Imogen Ainsworth (U.K., lives in US) – 3rd 2019 Kendall Mountain Run; 2nd 2019 Moab Red Hot 55k; 2nd 2017 Imogene Pass Run
  • Becca Bramley – 7th, 4th, 5th 2017-19 Kendall Mountain Run; 3rd 2018 Kennebec Mountain Run
  • Ginevra Cusseau (Italy) – 19th 2019 Zegama Marathon
  • Sarah Marie Guhl – 7th 2016 PPM (5:14:04); 6th 2015 PPA (3:10:41); a local who ran for Baylor University
  • Sara Kadlec – 9th, 13th, 18th PPA 2008-2010 all with times between 3:11:11-3:11:42(!); 2nd 2016 Power of Four 50k; 1st 2016 Imogene Pass Run
  • Jitka O’Farrell – 12th PPM and 1st women’s master 2018 PPM (5:34:05); 11th PPM 2017 (5:37:38)
  • Wendy Stalnaker – 10th 2018 PPM (5:32:08); 11th 2015 PPM (5:41:12); 6th 2019 Canyons 100k
  • Abigail Rae Topper – 8th 2018 PPA 2018 as a 22 year old (also raced PPA as 16 yo); 10th 2019 Barr Trail Mountain Race (on Pikes Peak); also entered in the previous day’s PPA

Previously Entered But Not Racing

  • Amy Leedham – Running PPA rather than PPM after injuries earlier in the year
  • Kristina Marie Mascarenas – The 2017 PPM women’s champ (and third-place finisher in 2016 and 2018) won’t be racing this year.

Call for Comments

  • Which women do you think will end up at the front of the race? Who might surprise folks on the slopes of Pikes Peak on Sunday?
  • As always, please leave a comment if you know of other top women we should be watching for on race day (there are two entrants lists and numerous late additions, so this is a big help!) as well as if any of the women we’ve mentioned won’t be racing after all.
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.