This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 22, 2004

Tackling the Ascent quite a (pair of) feet


Tough isn’t running the Pikes Peak Ascent, the 13-mile-plus-a- little-change half-marathon that also involves a 7,815-foot elevation gain. Tough is running the Ascent without any shoes.

Monica Madero-Craven is tough.

Please don’t confuse tough with crazy. The latter is enduring several months of training, looking at the snowcapped top of Pikes Peak and saying, “Maybe not today.” The former is looking at the white peak and smiling.

Extend much respect to the running enthusiasts who competed in the Ascent on Saturday. The Ascent, in running circles, is considered one of the nation’s most grueling endurance events. But 35-year-old Madero-Craven deserves a little extra something.

“More power to her,” said Anita Ortiz, who won her fourth straight women’s title. “Look, I’ll give my medal to her. She deserves it after that.”

Ortiz’s sentiments come from a woman who fractured her hip just months ago.

“My feet are frozen right now,” Ortiz said a few minutes after finishing the race. “I don’t know how she did it.”

Madero-Craven, an Air Force captain and math instructor at the Air Force Academy, has been running sans shoes since she was 14. What’s strange or different to conventional thinking is natural to Madero- Craven, who finished the course in 3 hours, 59 minutes and 16 seconds.

“Humans had been without shoes longer than we’ve had them,” she said.

Can’t argue with that.

But looking at Madero-Craven’s toes, heels and the ball of her right foot when she finished made me appreciate my leather-, plastic- and rubbercoated feet.

Madero-Craven held up her feet to astonished onlookers who crowded around to take pictures. They looked like they belonged on a B-movie zombie.

Both feet appeared frostbitten from a top view. But copious amounts of blood flowed from a gash in the ball of her right foot.

The blood dripped, a drop every two seconds, into the snow, further giving credence to Madero-Craven’s feat.

“It’s just a half-inch wide and an inch long,” Madero-Craven said. “It’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

People shook their heads as Madero-Craven walked to get medical treatment for the cut, which she said was a re-opening of a wound she gained in a six-mile run last week.

There were whispers of, “wow,” “amazing,” and “she’s nuts,” as Madero-Craven strolled into the medical building.

“People either tell me it’s incredible or that I’m crazy,” Madero- Craven said. “I tell them they’re crazy for wearing shoes! I can do a couple of miles in shoes, but my feet get too sore.”

Madero-Craven isn’t alone.

Debate exists between the benefits of barefoot running and running with shoes. And studies exist to support both types.

An article published in the August 2001 edition of the International Journal of Sports Medicine said that running shoes and insoles help alleviate lower back problems.

Data from a December 2003 study done by the Center for Motion Analysis at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center suggests that the impact of each foot hitting the ground is more evenly dispersed when running barefoot vs. with shoes.

“No, couldn’t do it,” said Leanne Whitesides, the second woman to finish the race. Whitesides then pointed to the mountain. “Your feet would go numb. There’s at least 45 minutes to an hour of ice and slush on your feet at the end.”

Madero-Craven admitted to being cold. She said the final three miles were the most brutal. Madero-Craven started the race at a 3:30:00 pace. She stopped at Barr Camp to retape her toes. Then she stopped three times between Barr Camp and the A-frame to tape again.

“I just said forget about it after the A-frame,” Madero-Craven said. “All that stopping was slowing me down, and I had to finish.”

Madero-Craven finished one of the nation’s most wicked races in some of the race’s most evil conditions.

She’s a tough woman.

Columnist Milo F. Bryant can be reached at 636-0252 or

Copyright 2004, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Back to the Press Archives