The Legendary Pikes Peak Marathon Men’s Record

AJW speculates on whether Kilian Jornet will set the Pikes Peak Marathon course record this weekend.

By on August 23, 2019 | Comments

AJW's TaproomFor more than 25 years, legendary Colorado runner Matt Carpenter has held the Pikes Peak Marathon men’s course record. His 1993 victory in 3:16:39 is one of the longest-standing course records in American trail running and, in many ways, represents the ‘holy grail’ of course records in the sport. (Here is my 2012 article on Carpenter’s records.) This year Kilian Jornet is returning to Pikes Peak after a seven-year absence and, for the first time in quite a few years, there is speculation that Carpenter’s record run up “America’s Mountain” could be in jeopardy.

On that fateful August day in 1993, Carpenter reached the summit in 2:01:06, a record split that still stands as the fastest ascent time at the historic event, and then blistered the descent in 1:15:33. Only Dakota Jones’s 1:13:53 descent set at last year’s race, is faster than Carpenter’s. Additionally, only Carpenter’s arch nemesis from the 1990s, Ricardo Mejia, has come within striking distance of Carpenter with a 3:21:32 in 1995. In the 23 years since then, only Mejia with a 3:29 in 1996 has even broken 3:30 for the race. Jones’s 3:32:20 to win the 2018 event is the closest anyone’s gotten to a 3:30 finish time since.

When Kilian raced the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2012, he won in 3:40:26, way off record pace. So, why is there speculation that perhaps the record could finally go down to Kilian Jornet?

Here are my three reasons why:

Kilian is fresh.

In a typical year by the end of August, Kilian has raced some long events or taken on some immense mountain challenges. Not that Kilian is ever really worn out by normal standards, but a quick look at his exploits over the past decade suggests that August has not been his prime time. This year, it looks like it is with just a handful of shorter races, no major 100 milers or big mountain projects, and a clear indication that he is fit based on his course record at Sierre-Zinal two weeks ago.

Kilian is focused.

While it would be hard to argue that Kilian is ever anything but focused, some have observed that there are times he goes into events and challenges with more of an attitude of fun and camaraderie than others. I believe he is going into this one to break the record. Going all the way back to my conversation with him earlier this year in preparation for my article on his 2010 season, I sensed in Kilian a drive that is as strong and powerful as his legs. It is this focused drive that leads me to believe he can summit Pikes in two hours flat and descend in 1:15.

Kilian is a student of the sport.

While his exploits are indeed legendary, Kilian also has a keen sense of history as was evidenced in his Bob Graham Round record last year. I believe this sense of history combined with, perhaps, a sense of urgency as Father Time marches on, have provided Kilian with this unique opportunity to surpass one of the most iconic records in American trail running.

And so it is with his fitness, freshness, focus, and sense of history that I think Kilian will get the record on Sunday. In fact, my sources tell me that he was already on the mountain as of Wednesday doing some recon. That fact, along with the body of work Kilian is bringing to the mountain this weekend, says to me that the time has come for the King of Pikes Peak to be re-crowned.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Bristol Brewing Company in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Their Yellow Kite Summer Pils is the perfect beer to enjoy after a long day in the high mountains of Colorado’s Front Range. Lightly hopped, with a slight touch of spice and sweetness, Yellow Kite is an ideal summer mountain beer.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Alright, let’s do this debate. Will he or won’t he? Will Kilian Jornet reset the men’s course record held by Matt Carpenter at Sunday’s Pikes Peak Marathon?
  • And, will he reset Marr Carpenter’s ascent record in the process?

Kilian Jornet at the start of the 2012 Pikes Peak Marathon. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Kilian about to summit Pikes Peak during the 2012 Pikes Peak Marathon. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

After the 2012 Pikes Peak Marathon where Kilian won, Alex Nichols (not pictured) took second, and Max King (right) took third. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.