This story has been archived from the Monday, August 25, 2008 South County Journal in St. Louis
Pikes Peak or bust
Fenton runner battles rain, snow, freezing temperatures during Pikes Peak marathon
By Julie Randle
Monday, August 25, 2008 2:49 PM CDT
It was no walk in the park.
At the starting line on race day for the 2008 Pikes Peak Ascent a half marathon the weather was 50 degrees and raining. The forecast toward the finish line called for 20 mile per hour winds, temperatures below freezing and three to five inches of snow.
All the runners responded with cheering, said Justin Gadberry, a 26-year-old Fenton resident, who ran in the Aug. 16 race.Runners in the Pikes Peak Ascent cover 13.32 miles and climb 7,815 feet up the side of Pikes Peak.
To underscore the difficulty of the race, only 760 runners finished out of a starting field of 1,972, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
The race was constant rain. It got cooler and cooler and the incline got steeper and steeper, Gadberry said.
Once he passed the tree line, the weather was relentless. He saw the first snow drifts, stumbled through slush and battled the wind.
It became much like an Arctic death march, he said.
Those who did complete the event were in similar, if not worst shape, than Gadberry, who finished wet, cold and exhausted.
The first building he stumbled into at the summit was the medical hut, where he found warmth, a set of dry clothes and a hot cup of coffee.
The mountain really gives it to you said Gadberry, who finished the course in four hours and 20 minutes.
For me, it was one of the most challenging things Ive done.
Ironically, Gadberrys dislike for hills inspired him to enter. Plus, he wanted to get into shape.
So why not train for a half-marathon up a 14,110-foot mountain that can be seen 60 miles away in Denver?
After all, Gadberry had been in top shape when he served as a military intelligence officer in the Army.
But that was last January when he left the military. Months of civilian life and the responsibility of being a new father to twins had eroded his fitness.
He normally weighs 225 pounds, but lack of exercise, sleepless nights caring for nine-month-old Brevin and Tristan and the convenience of fast food added an additional 10 pounds to his 6-foot-3-inch frame.
To jolt his life in a new direction, Gadberry, who is working on his masters degree in business, wanted a challenge.
I had enough, he said. I knew I had to do the most challenging thing I could think of at the time and train for it.
After researching the Internet he found the answer - the Pikes Peak Ascent.
Gadberry started training in April. It started off with a combination of running and walking for an hour, then a three-mile run. On Sundays, he spiced up his routine by having his wife, Jasha, an attorney at Thompson Coburn, drop him off somewhere for a run home.
In July, Gadberry learned that one of Jashas relatives, who was in her 40s, had suffered a heart attack. He contacted the American Heart Association and decided to use the Pikes Peak Ascent as a fundraiser to benefit the agency that aims to prevent cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
His goal was raise $7,000 - which equates to roughly $1 per foot since he was racing up 7,000 plus feet. So far he has raised $1,000, he said.
Rich Blosser, the marketing manager at Docs Harley Davidson in Kirkwood, where Gadberry is a part-time clerk in the rental department, marvels at his accomplishment.
Hes a go getter. I think once he identified that as a goal. It was a done deal, he said. I have no desire to climb Pikes Peak now or ever.
Docs usually supports motorcycle or Kirkwood charity events, but in this case they wanted to back their own. The company donated $250 to Gadberrys cause, Blosser said.
Gadberrys already thinking of doubling the effort next year.
I might try the marathon, which involves running up the mountain and back down, he said.