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In white shorts, sleeveless blouse and dime-store tennis shoes, Arlene Pieper Stine, 29, stood on the start line of the 1959 Pikes Peak Marathon looking more like Marilyn Monroe than a mountaineer.
But Pieper Stine, then a Colorado Springs health club owner, not only finished the 26-mile race, with its grueling 8,000 feet of vertical gain to the 14,115 summit, she became the first woman to complete a sanctioned marathon in the United States.
Eight years later, Kathrine Switzer would be the first woman to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon in a dramatic act of gender defiance.
This weekend, 60 years after Arlene Pieper Stine conquered Pikes Peak in 9 hours and 16 minutes, hundreds of women will line up at the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathonstart, following her path on one of the country’s toughest and highest altitude race courses.
In 2009, after a long search, a Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon historian trackeddown Pieper Stine, who had long ago moved away and was living near Fresno, California.
She had no idea of her place in running history.
“I still remember it like it was yesterday,” she said in a 2014 interview. “You can be a wonderful wife and mother, but doing the race showed me that if there’s something you really want to do, you should go for it.”
A black-and-white photo of that race start shows Pieper Stine along with her 9-year-old daughter, Kathy, and her husband, who ran with her to offer moral support.
Pieper Stine said she got the idea to do the race as a way to promote Arlene’s Health Studio. The Pikes Peak Marathon never prohibited women from participating.
“In those days, we had no aid stations like there are now, and my running shoes were actually just those sneakers you get from the five and dime,” she said. “And about a week after the race, all 10 of my toenails fell off!”
Pieper Stine, now 89, sometimes returns to Manitou Springs to mark the official start of the race. “What a thrill to look out and see all these people getting ready to run.”
She was inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 and has became a cult figure in the local racing community, inspiring a group of women runners to dress as Pieper Stine did in 1959 in the inaugural “She Moves Mountains” run up the peak last weekend, race organizer Alicia Pino said.(08/23/2019) ⚡AMP
A Journey to the Top and Perhaps Back The Pikes Peak Ascent® and Pikes Peak Marathon® will redefine what you call running. Sure, they start out like a lot of races on Any Street, USA. But your first left turn will have you turning in the direction of up! During the next 10 miles, as you gain almost 6,000...more...