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I kind of have a love/hate relationship with the Garden of the Gods.  Before I had ever set foot in the great state of Colorado, I knew the following about Colorado Springs.

  1. Pikes Peak is the most extreme mountain in the continental United States. Cliffhanger may have actually been filmed here.
  2. Every Olympic athlete in the country lives and trains in Colorado Springs.
  3. Colorado Springs is a suburb of Denver.
  4. The Garden of the Gods is a National Park just outside of Colorado Springs full of buffalo, antelope, and maybe even a sasquatch or two.

I've now been in the Springs for over a decade.  Quickly I uncovered my misconceptions, which was a bit disappointing.  Pikes does offer some fun snow climbs, such as the Y and Railroad couliors, but compared to many other high peaks in the state, its a gentle giant.  I've occasionally run into guys like Apollo Ohno and Hunter Kemper on the trails, but the ratio of elite athletes to everyday joes here is still pretty thin.  And while it only takes 15 minutes to get from Monument to Castle Rock, the cultural divide between 303 and 719 is not trivial.

Perhaps the greatest disillusionment for me, however, has been accepting the Garden for what it is:  a pretty cool geological phenomena that is usually overrun by gawkers and rubberneckers from Sioux City.  Anyone who has moved to Colorado knows it's pretty darn easy to convince people from "back home" to come visit.  Once they learn that we're many hours from most of the ski resorts, they usually become transfixed on being taken to the Garden.  I oblige, but hold out hope that I can make them fall in love with one of our town's hidden gems - North Cheyenne Canyon, Red Rocks, Rampart Reservoir.  

Why the disdain?  It probably stems from my days as a cyclist.  I'm not sure what's more dangerous - trying to do a Garden loop in the summer, or riding against traffic on I-25.  No matter how much signage is put up telling them not to, drivers constantly pull into the bike lane to park.  Some, I'm convinced, do so simply because they await the opportunity to "door" me.  It's like a game of Donkey Kong or something for them.  Even when you get off the roads, your best view is usually of people viewing people viewing people viewing the rocks.  

Don't get me wrong.  It's pretty.  The park's trails are well maintained.  The roads are immaculate.  The White Lyons, Red Lyons, and Fountain Formation rock layers fascinate anyone trying to wrap their head around what that means.

In order to alleviate my frustration, I propose this.  On June 8th, let's move the start time of the Garden 10 miler from 7AM to 2PM.  Let's alter the course so that all 1,500 of us get to do multiple clockwise loops.  Equip us all with lances - charred stumps from the nearby Waldo fire will do.  Give the tourists no warning.  Sweet revenge.  With numbers, we can overwhelm them.  Victory will be OURS!

Maybe this is a bit extreme.  Maybe I should hit the Garden early in the morning instead of mid-day.  Maybe I should acknowledge my good fortune, living less than a mile away from some of the more beautiful urban backdrops in the entire country.

Maybe, just maybe though, the idea of a 1,500 runner free-for-all cutting through the Garden at high tourist time might give you the satisfaction it gives me. 

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Comment by CJ Hitz on May 19, 2014 at 6:04pm

This is a delicious little piece...totally agree with you Sean.  I could see your 2pm warrior strategy possibly being fulfilled if the Triple Crown of Racing sells the GOG 10 miler to the guy who owns the Spartan Races. Maybe we could even have Mel Gibson make an appearance :-)

Comment by Shelley Hitz on May 18, 2014 at 8:42pm

Thanks for the entertaining read, Sean.  We also live close to the Garden and try to go early when we go during tourist season.  Beautiful views and so many trails to choose from throughout the park.  

Comment by Tonia Smith on May 18, 2014 at 2:53pm
I took a break from running in the garden for a long time. This winter/spring I have made a point to revisit the trails there and have a whole new appreciation for them. Cheyenne canon is still my favorite running spot, though!

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