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Documentary "Running Big" reveals the heart of the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent

The wind howled the cold notes of January’s song and the hope of springtime felt like a dream as I poured my first cup of coffee today.

But by the time I’d reached the bottom of Cup. No. 2, my mood had changed, and it wasn't just the caffeine talking. I had detached myself from the couch and I stood and cheered for Buck, a barrel-chested Indiana farmer who at age 64 had taken on the famous Pikes Peak Double, the ascent and marathon, on back-to-back days in 2015.

Alan “Buck” Gossard is the star of the documentary film “Running Big.”  I watched it online here http://www.running-big.com/the-film. The feature-length version, 46 minutes, is better than the TV cut, but both are excellent.  The story follows Buck’s journey from the cornfields of America’s heartland to the top of America’s Mountain and back.

If you can’t watch online, “Running Big” is scheduled to air on KTSC, Channel 8, at 7 p.m. Thursday (tomorrow) and then again at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“Running Big means pushing your limits in the face of an uncertain outcome,” Buck says in the film. “It means toeing up to the line and giving it your best shot.”

Buck’s brother David Gossard produced the film with a crew of family members and friends. It begins with Buck describing the Pikes Peak races, and questioning his decision. The Pikes Peak Double is a lofty goal for any mountain runner. But, as Buck’s wife Debbie put it, “I think running Pikes Peak is crazy. I’ve always thought it was crazy. My mother says he doesn’t have a lick of sense.”

The photography is at once captivating with wide-sweeping views of Indiana’s summer-green farmland and gorgeous shots of Pikes Peak, including some quick-but-shocking drone footage of the summit finish line on race day.

Buck set a personal best in the Ascent (4:53:49) and then considered the start of the marathon set to begin a short 19 hours later. “Two basic unanswered questions here," he says. "One of which … how much can I recover between now and tomorrow morning? The other, which will be forever unanswered is, what was I thinking?”

David Gossard did a wonderful job inserting facts about the Pikes Peak races, as well as outlining Buck’s training plan. How does a flatlander prepare for a run to the 14,115-foot summit of Pikes Peak? Buck’s training was much like that of any mountain runner – minus the mountains. He incorporated tempo runs with a long run, plus lots of bicycle miles. He also ran on a treadmill set to mimic a climb up Barr Trail. And he talks about the benefit of pushing his lawnmower six hours a week.

There are lots of cameo appearances by Pikes Peak regulars, including race record holders Kim Dobson and Matt Carpenter, who talks about the thrill of running down the mountain. “One wrong step and you’ll bust your teeth out, so that makes you feel alive,” Carpenter says.

There is also a quick interview with Tracey Thomsen Anderson, who crashed on the way down and finished with blood splatters from head to toe. “If the bone ain’t showin’, then keep on going,” she says.

Running Big has won awards at various independent film events and it contains a sweet musical score, including songs by Connor Garvey, “Mountain Song” and “Backroads,” which fit perfectly with the story and the Rocky Mountain stage.

Buck started the marathon the next morning and tagged the summit under his predicted split time. Then, with 26-miles and 16,000 feet of climbing in his legs in 24 hours, he begins the descent, the race to the finish, and his attempt to beat the 10-hour cutoff time.

I became his biggest fan.

This is a must-watch for anyone who has participated in the Pikes Peak races, runners, volunteers and spectators. Those unfamiliar with the event will find it to be a thorough documentation of “America’s Greatest Challenge.”

 The film shows what the Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent family and the Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs communities have created: An arena in which people from across the country and around the world can run big. We should all be proud.

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