Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

Ethiopian-born Serkalem Biset Abrha claims women's Pikes Peak Ascent title

Photos by Bryan Oller

Serkalem Biset Abrha kept her focus on the rugged singletrack before her as she ascended Barr Trail on Saturday in the 62nd running of the Pikes Peak Ascent.

She sprinted to an early lead – something most runners are afraid to do in a race that begins in Manitou Springs and ends at the peak’s 14,115 foot summit. Biset Abrha, 30, of Albuqurque, N.M., climbed through the twisting switchbacks, gaining altitude with each stride. She powered her way to Barr Camp, roughly halfway through the race. Then came timberline, and she looked up.

“There is nothing like it,” she says. “We don’t have this (in Albuquerque.)

It’s a common belief among most Pikes Peak veterans: Runners like Biset Abrha don’t always perform well in the Ascent, which includes a leg-crushing climb of 7,815 feet. She specializes in road races, and has a personal best of 2:31 in the marathon. She trains to be fast … on flat roads. Her performance on the peak's granite sides, however, may cause that "common belief" to become a myth.

She led from the gun and would not be caught. The Ethiopian-born runner pranced through the final switchbacks at the summit – and side-stepped a male runner who collapsed at the finish line -  to win in  2 hours, 42 minutes, 19 seconds.

“This was very hard and I can’t breath,” she said at the finish.

Winning on Pikes Peak is never easy. Biset Abrha’s lower back began to seize in muscle spasms and a leg cramp prevented her from running efficiently over the last three miles, where the views stretch all the way to Kansas.

“I just kept going,” she said.

A pair of Colorado runners on the Salomon U.S. team, Anna Mae Flynn and Addie Bracy, cut into Biset Abrha’s lead in the thin air, but ran out of trail.

“I felt like I was gaining ground on her at the end when the trail became more technical, but there just wasn’t enough room,” said Flynn, who placed second in 2:43:14.

Flynn’s race, like Biset Abrha’s, was a new experience. It was her first Pikes Peak Ascent attempt. She generally competes in races that include steeper climbs, Vertical Ks, that force the best runners in the world to power hike. And she recently won the Speed Goat 50K in Utah, where a slower pace is required on tough grades. Pikes Peak, she says, is a whole new ball game, allowing elite runners to run nearly the whole distance. But that becomes tricky when the oxygen levels at cloud level begin to drop.

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” she said. “I felt a little better on the upper part of the mountain. I feel like I’m strong, but I don’t have the endurance. This is definitely a lot more runnable than my current training.”

Bracy clocked in at 2:47:55 to place third. She is relatively new to mountain running, and the sport has been good to her. She is the two-time defending U.S. Mountain Running Champion, and won a team gold medal at the 2017 world championships.

“I actually felt pretty good the first, maybe, eight or nine miles,” she says. “But I ran here last year and I know the race doesn’t really start until you get above treeline and things start to get real. The last two miles I was feeling pretty rough.”

Views: 635

© 2024   Created by Tim Bergsten.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service