Jeff Rode took a trip to the top of Colorado’s famed Pikes Peak this summer, but he didn’t get much of a chance to soak in the breathtaking views: He was too busy running a …
Jeff Rode took a trip to the top of Colorado’s famed Pikes Peak this summer, but he didn’t get much of a chance to soak in the breathtaking views: He was too busy running a race.
“The scenery’s good, but really you don’t get to look at the scenery too much, because ... you’ve got to watch where you put your feet,” Rode said of the Pikes Peak Marathon. An ill-timed peek at the views and “first thing you know, you’re face down in the trail,” he said.
While he might not have gotten to do much sightseeing, Rode, 64, did come away from the Aug. 25 race with a second-place finish within his age group. The Powell athlete hustled up and down the mountain in 6 hours, 26 minutes and 43 seconds, besting 31 other men between the ages of 60 and 64.
Simply completing the 26.21 mile marathon is a feat in itself, as runners must climb up 7,815 feet of elevation to reach the top of Pikes Peak, then turn around and head back to the town of Manitou Springs. (For comparison, trekking up Heart Mountain involves ascending only about 2,500 feet.)
Between the steepness of the terrain and thin, high-elevation air, “I do a lot of walking going up Pikes Peak,” said Rode, who tackled the marathon for the fifth time.
This year, he was the fastest to the top of the peak in his group — beating 60-year-old John Gardner of Colorado Springs by about five seconds — but Gardner was speedier on the descent, finishing about 15 minutes ahead of Rode.
“I’ve had three knee surgeries, and I can’t run down very fast,” Rode said. “So he [Gardner] kicked my butt going down.”
As part of his preparations, Rode ran in the Beartooth Mountains with a group of runners from Cody, including Marina Steerman.
“She [Steerman] tries killing me running to the top of Sundance Pass,” Rode said with a laugh, but added that it’s good to have people pushing him a little.
There were plenty of folks to push Rode at the Pikes Peak Marathon. The overall winner — 31-year-old Kilian Jornet Burgada of Mandalen, Norway — completed the race in a blistering time of 3 hours, 27 minutes and 28 seconds.
“The elite athletes are just flying,” Rode said, noting that they finished the race not long after he reached the summit.
There are always plenty of exceptional performances at the Pikes Peak races, including a couple of men in their 80s who completed the ascent in a recent year.
“Kind of puts you in your place,” Rode said.
He enjoys the challenge of the marathon, but “what’s so nice about the race is the camaraderie with the other runners,” Rode said, “because they all kind of know what you go kind of go through to get to the point that you’re at. It ain’t like a normal run-of-the-mill marathon.”
After such a long, grueling race, reaching the finish line in Manitou Springs can be an emotional experience — and Rode enjoys help to cheer runners on.
“It’s not family,” he said, “but it’s pretty close.”
Rode started competing at the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon in 2012, though injuries forced him to miss a couple contests.
“I’m getting older every year,” he said, “but I plan [to] keep doing it as long as I can make the time cut-off.”