From the Colorado Springs Gazette Newspaper, 2-28-2017
Runners of the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon are facing a trend that's rising like the mountain that hosts the annual summer races.
When registration begins March 11, participants will again have to reach deeper into their pockets. The 1,800 runners of the 13.32-mile Ascent will pay $160, up $10 from last year, and a spot in the 26.21-mile Marathon's 800-person field will cost $200, up $25. That's more than double the price from just six years ago.
Those seeking to run both races will have to fork over $410, which includes the $50 "doubler" fee created in 2015 by Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc., the organization that owns and operates the event heading into its 62nd year.
"Of course I'm not happy with it," said Ann Labosky, who began racing up the mountain in 2003, when entry fees were around $50. "For the old-timers like me who did this back when the price was well under $100, it's been hard to see."
She's "doubled" five times in her 14 years participating, but she has no plans to do so again. Nor does Roger Austin, who's been racing since 2007.
"Money becomes an issue," he said, mentioning other races that draw from his budget, including Leadville's Silver Rush, a 50-mile jaunt with entry fees ranging from $115 to $135. It's a longer race with a cheaper price tag, he noted, but certainly without the logistics involved in organizing a race up to 14,115 feet, with aid stations in places without access roads.
Austin's point: "There are other races out there where you get the same camaraderie and feeling for a lot less money," he said. "And if it's really just a matter of being on Pikes Peak, it's like some of my friends have been saying: I can run up anytime I want, and it doesn't cost me anything."
Ron Ilgen is the president of Pikes Peak Marathon, Inc., which he said generates $500,000 annually from its four events, with the Ascent and Marathon responsible for 70 to 80 percent of that. He emphasized that entry fees have increased in an attempt to improve the event's quality and to keep up with competition. He used the examples of the New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon, the premier races that charge $225 and $185, respectively, for U.S. runners.
As for quality, he alluded to the medals and apparel each Ascent and Marathon finisher receives, along with post-race celebrations with pizza and beer. Such things weren't part of the event in the 1990s.
And such are examples of costs not counting those for the course itself, like gas for the trucks that haul supplies to aid stations. Holding the event each August also means annually buying a permit from the U.S. Forest Service that runs $12,000, Ilgen said. And he said the company pays $8,000 for assistance from Manitou Springs city personnel, including police.
"Another thing that's changed," said Ilgen, "has been going from an all-volunteer organization where it's whoever has some time to these paid positions. To run an organization this size on purely volunteer help is very difficult."
Ilgen declined to say what his position - he also serves as race director for the Ascent and Marathon - or the three others within the organization earned. He called them part-time and said: "Go by dollars per hour, with all the time put in, it's nothing really."
Registrants can be assured their money is going toward local conservation nonprofits that the organization supports. And despite the price spikes, Ilgen expects spots to fill as they always have: the Marathon in a day, the Ascent in a few more.
"They're filling, and it's business," Labosky said. "They can keep charging what they want as long as they keep filling."