10 Reasons to Run the American Discovery Trail Marathon
The American Discovery Trail Marathon is my favorite marathon up to date. Held in Colorado Springs, Colorado along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains on Labor Day each year, I can find nothing negative to say about this race. It is a point to point marathon. You park and catch a bus near the America the Beautiful Park in downtown Colorado Springs and are transported to Palmer Lake atop the Palmer Divide 25 miles North. It is a small marathon with about 300 runners each year. A half-marathon is also ran which starts 13 miles down the same trail.
Most of the marathon takes place on a rails to trails path where the old Santa Fe rail line ran, the Santa Fe Trail. It is a trail marathon, but the footing is smooth. There are no roots or single tracks or creek crossings. The American Discovery Trail Marathon is a Boston Marathon qualifier and is definitely not just trail runners.
1. Scenic Course
This entire marathon presents stunning views. I actually saw other runners stop to take photos! 26.2 miles running parallel to Colorado’s Front Range is a feast for the eyes: Pikes Peak, Mount Herman, Cheyenne Mountain, Air Force Academy, Ponderosa Pines, canyons, and ridges. You might spy a mule deer, coyote, fox, or prairie dog. It is the most scenic marathon that I have yet to run; and it is going to be awfully hard to beat.
When I say fast, I am not saying fast for a trail marathon; just fast in general. From start to finish, the American Discovery Trail Marathon loses about 1300 feet elevation. Most of this descent is not noticeable to the eye. You simply feel the gentle pull of gravity urging you along just a little faster than expected. On the south side of the United States Air Force Academy near Falcon Stadium, there is 1 mile of steeper descent that really helps cut your time.
3. Not Too Easy
Fast is great, but running completely flat or downhill could get a little boring and downhill runs can be hard on the legs. While there are a lot of nice “flat” stretches, there are also several gentle up and down rollers to keep the legs awake. Four relatively short but quite steep hills are interspersed at fairly equal distances on the course. One near Air Force Academy is particularly vertical.
With race start at daybreak, dry desert air, and the starting elevation about 7500 feet, even in late summer, you can actually expect it to be cool at the start. Denver is the “Mile High City.” Palmer Lake is another 1/2 mile higher! The year that I ran the American Discovery Trail Marathon, the start was downright cold with a temperature of 39 F (4 C) with winds whipping off of the mountains giving a windchill below freezing! As the sun rises though, the thin desert air warms quickly and soon it is much more comfortable. At 26 miles later and 1300 feet lower, the temperature was near 70 F (21 C), but very dry with low humidity.
5. Time of Year
There are not many, if any, fast, scenic marathons is the US in late summer. Running in early September allows you, if you wish, plenty of time to recover and train for a winter marathon, too, like the Space Coast Marathon or Walt Disney World Marathon.
6. Crushed Stone Surface
Most of the American Discovery Trail Marathon winds along the Santa Fe Trail with a crushed stone footing. The crushed stone is much easier on knees and feet, especially with the extra pounding from running downhill, than running on blacktop. I like the traction of crushed stone, too. I really don’t think that it slows you down.
7. Family Viewing
The Santa Fe trail not only parallels the Front Range of the Rockies, but also I-24. There are designated viewing areas every few miles. You family can easily watch you and cheer you on multiple times during the race and then again at the finish. Being a small marathon stretched over point to point, there is not a lot of fan support until the finish. Seeing your family and knowing that they will be waiting again a little further down is great motivation
8. Support and After Party
Colorado Springs is running town and the Pikes Peak Road Runners know how to host a race. Refreshment stations were frequent and well manned. Restrooms were..well, honestly, most people just stepped into the woods. At the finish, you circle America the Beautiful Park which is lined with people who are already enjoying the after party and are ready to cheer you on.
9. Easily Accessible
You might question how Colorado Springs, Colorado can be called easily accessible. The answer is Denver International Airport. Downtown Colorado Springs is about an hour drive from the Denver airport. Denver airport has direct flights to almost every major and many smaller airports all across the country. You can easily get here and enjoy this wonderful race and …#10.
10. Colorado Springs is a Great Vacation Destination!
Colorado Springs has so much for your family to see and do while you are here: Pikes Peak Cog Railway, Garden of the Gods, United States Air Force Academy , U.S. Olympic Training Center, and more. It is one of our favorite family vacation destinations. Fly in with your family and spend the entire Labor Day weekend or maybe even a couple of days longer and explore the area in the days prior to the American Discover Trail Marathon. You and your family will love it! Link 1 Link 2
As a lover of both marathons and travel, I highly recommend the American Discovery Trail Marathon. You will not be disappointed. ADT Marathon