Rémi Bonnet, a 28-year-old Swiss trail runner, and ski-mo racer, embodies the spirit of optimism and possibility. From his teenage years, Bonnet has fearlessly conquered challenging mountain ascents worldwide, showcasing his exceptional abilities. However, one formidable challenge has eluded him—the Pikes Peak Ascent in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Choose the pinnacle of running excellence – Tarkine Goshawk shoes, engineered for speed, endurance, and a victorious finish.

Rémi Bonnet
Image Source: esprit-trail.com

As Bonnet prepares to tackle the 13.32-mile race up the imposing 14,115-foot Pikes Peak on September 16, he faces not only a daunting course but also a historical record that has remained unbroken.

For this year’s race, Bonnet, the defending champion, must also contend with the unpredictable snowy weather conditions. Nevertheless, Bonnet remains unshaken in his determination to chase what has been dubbed “the impossible record.” This record is none other than the remarkable 2:01:06 time set by the legendary American mountain runner, Matt Carpenter, back in 1993. Carpenter’s record has stood for longer than many other records in the running world, including the mile record held by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj.

Over the past three decades, only Carpenter (2:08:27 in 2006 at the age of 42), two-time mountain running world champion Joe Gray of Colorado Springs (2:05:28 in 2016), and Bonnet have come close to challenging Carpenter’s record. Even Bonnet’s respectable time of 2:07:02 in last year’s Ascent left him trailing Carpenter’s monumental feat by more than half a mile.

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In an effort to raise the stakes, the Pikes Peak race organizers have, in recent years, offered substantial prize bonuses for breaking the course records. (The women’s course record stands at 2:24:58, set by Kim Dobson in 2012.) However, the bar for claiming the $10,000 prize has been raised significantly, requiring runners to far surpass the records by breaking the 2-hour mark (or 2:21 for women).

Bonnet, who won the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2017 at the age of 20, dedicated the past few weeks to rigorous training in an altitude chamber in Switzerland. He arrived in Colorado on September 6 and spent a week navigating steep mountain trails in and around Breckenridge.

“For me, it’s not about the money. It’s about this historic record, and my sole goal is to etch my name onto it,” Bonnet declared, a professional athlete sponsored by Salomon and Red Bull. “I believe it’s possible because last year, the only part where I lost time to Matt Carpenter was the highest section between 12,000 and 14,100 feet. With all the training I’ve undergone at this altitude and some test runs this week, I genuinely feel ready to take a shot at it.”

The Pikes Peak Ascent: A Unique Challenge

The Pikes Peak Ascent sets itself apart from typical half marathons. It commences in the heart of Manitou Springs at an elevation of approximately 6,300 feet above sea level, propelling runners on a lung- and leg-burning journey ascending 7,800 feet to the summit of Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak, ranking as the 30th highest among Colorado’s 58 “14ers,” held the name Tavá Kaavi—the Sun Mountain—long before European settlers arrived.


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The race starts with a 1.5-mile stretch up a paved road through Ruxton Canyon, followed by the rest of the course on the rugged dirt and rock terrain of Barr Trail. Carpenter’s record translates to an astonishing 9:15 per mile, highlighting the challenge of running swiftly in the thinning air at higher altitudes.

This year’s Pikes Peak Ascent bears significance as a key event in the Golden Trail World Series, an international circuit of grueling mountain running races in the U.S. and Europe. Consequently, it attracts elite runners from around the globe, all vying for victory alongside Bonnet. Notable contenders include Kenyans Philemon Ombogo and Patrick Kipngeno, Spain’s Daniel Osanz, and Americans Eli Hemming and Joe Gray—a five-time Ascent winner who remains undeterred despite recently breaking a bone in his hand.

In the past week, Bonnet has summited several high peaks, including the 13,690-foot Mount Baldy and the 14,272-foot Quandary Peak near Breckenridge.

“It will be a fierce battle,” Bonnet remarked. “I’m grateful they are here to push me. I plan to maintain the same pace as last year in the initial part, not pushing harder. However, I believe I can unleash my full potential in the second half because I’m better acclimatized this year.”

Generous Prize Purses

The Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent offer some of the most substantial prize purses in the trail running world. In addition to the potential $10,000 time bonuses, the Pikes Peak Ascent will award $20,400 to the top 10 male and female finishers, with $3,000 reserved for the winners. The Pikes Peak Marathon, although not part of the Golden Trail Series, boasts an additional purse of $10,500 for the top five male and female finishers.

The Golden Trail circuit continues with the Mammoth 26K race on September 21 in Mammoth Lakes, California, and culminates with the two-day Golden Trail Championship on October 19-20 in Italy.