Well, I originally planned to sit on this idea for a while, thinking perhaps that the infinite wisdom of time would convince me of my absurdity and foolishness so that I may once again live in peace. But Thursday morning, after a relatively sleepless night, I awoke with a vision that continues to haunt me. And so, with no other choice now but to share what I have to share, I sincerely hope that doing so will relieve some of my angst.
Let me preface what I'm about to propose with the following: I am an Inclinophobic. I make the pilgrimage only a handful of times a year and when I do make the trek, I'm still not exactly excited about it. It hurts. A LOT. And this anti-incline attitude is rooted in a similar aversion towards track repeats, 5k's, and other relatively short, intense workouts. For runners who excel in the abovementioned arenas, one's merit is founded almost exclusively upon speedy PR times. And just because the Incline is trail instead of track, the mindset for the most popular climb in Manitou is largely the same. In fact, without fail, the number one question you'll be asked by a stranger along the way is "what was your time on the way up?" But this approach mistakenly assumes a narrow-minded, linear hierarchy of traits. It praises fast times over endurance; pure physical ability over the intangibles like mental toughness, stubborness, and stupidity. And since the latter of which speak more to my talents, naturally, I propose a broadened perspective of our cherished Incline.
With that said, instead of a solely chronologically based assessment of prowess, what if we had a new paradigm of prestige that asks an alternative question. Instead of "What TIME did you make it up", what if we asked "How MANY TIMES did you make it up?"
From the 300,000 to 500,000 who climb the climb each year, how many have completed back to back consecutive trips? Oh that's nothing, you say. You know tons of locals who've done that.
OK, well how many do back to back to back trips? Sure, still a good number but definitely more of a select group.
Then answer me this: how many consider back to back to back to back trips? Now we're talking only the true Inclinoholics.
Alright, well how many would consider an INCLINE MARATHON?... I don't know...only the crazies?... The mind boggles! Well ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the obsession that has occupied my mind over recent days.
As far as I can tell, the unofficial record time for the roughly 1 mile, 2,100 ft climb is 16:42 set by world class triathlete Mark Fretta. But, does anyone know if an Incline Marathon has been completed? Every once in a great while, as evidenced by Mark Pevoteaux's Jack Quinn's Ultra, a simple idea can inspire displays of pure awesomeness. At this point though, the INCLINATHON remains JUST THAT, AN IDEA (largely due to legality issues you can learn about here and here and for those of you that don't know the INCLINE FRIENDS are hosting a membership drive to help make it legal and safe for all, but I digress). In spite of these facts, let us examine the logistics of what something like this would entail, just for fun of course.
-If one were so INCLINED (sorry) to attempt such a feat, they could optimistically expect a marathon of 13 up-downs with 27,300 ft of climbing and 27,300 ft of descending, to take around 13 hours!
-A Barr trail descent would be out of the question for purists but potentially a good training run
-Aid stations at every mile (top and bottom) or every two miles (bottom only)
-Ample opportunity for pacers
-More average elevation gain (1,050 ft/mile) than the Hardrock 100 (679 ft/mile)!
I can tell you that after one trip up and down the giant staircase, my legs are pretty well fried. With that said, I think an Incline Marathon is totally doable. And, hypothetically speaking, if this INCLINATHON were attempted (say Aprilish, again hypothetically) but found to be undoable, well it would lead me to an even better question. Why not? Why couldn't I climb one more step... and then one more step after that...and then one more step after that? Fatigue? Injury? Boredom? Epic Bonk? All these things are things that athletes, and nonathletes for that matter (except maybe the epic bonk part), struggle with routinely. So then, why not a NON-ROUTINE struggle on the stairway.
Of course, with this new perspective, the INCLINATHON is simply the beginning. Just think of the INCLINE 10K t-shirts, or the 1/2 INCLINATHON race medals, or even, dare I say it, a 100 MILE ULTRA-INCLINATHON belt buckle! Ah yes, the possibilities are as numerous as the stairs of the INCLINE herself!