By Angie Reese-Mudd/The Gazette
For Danelle Ballengee, the Pikes Peak Marathon course has become her only challenge because there hasn't been anyone to push her through her record four consecutive titles.
But the course is no longer enough, so Ballengee's run is literally coming to an end. Ballengee won't be one of the 1,800 runners in Saturday's Pikes Peak Ascent, and she will be passing on her title to one of the 800 runners in Sunday's Pikes Peak Marathon.
"It breaks my heart because this is such an incredible course and I absolutely love this race, and it has all the possibilities to be one of the greatest races in the world," said Ballengee, 27, who lives in Dillon.
"And since there isn't any prize money, I would at least like to make it worth my while in having some good competition. But it's just not going to happen this year. And while it's great that the promoters design this race for the community, it just doesn't fit into my schedule anymore as an elite athlete."
The Triple Crown of Running limits the number of entrie s this weekend, for runner safety and medical service availability. But both races fill up early, so runners have to commit to running the races almost a year ahead of time.
"Because these races are so great, they fill up so fast," Ballengee said.
"But elite runners usually don't commit to races until a short time before, because they wait to see if they're healthy and how their training is going. So when they decide they want to come to run, and I know some of the world's greatest runners who would travel here to run this, they can't get in."
Triple Crown of Running president Dave Zehrer says they don't make exceptions, because everyone believes they have a special situation.
But because of that, Ballengee - one of the top Fila SkyRunners who won the SkyRunning Championships in Aspen and was the top American in the World SkyRunning Championships in Italy - says there wasn't anyone she was aware of who could give her a challenge Sunday, so she decided not to run.
But she was willing to pass on some of her tips.
Angie Reese-Mudd may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org