1956 Pike Sesquicentennial Marathon

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By Matt Carpenter

8 a.m. Friday, August 10th, 1956 — 150 years (hence sesquicentennial) since Zebulon Pike “discovered” the peak — 14(?) runners started the race.

Dr. Arne Suominen became the founder of the modern day Pikes Peak races when he wrote a letter to the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and challenged cigarette smokers to race him up and down Pikes Peak. Rudy Fahl, a real estate salesman, took on the job of organizing the race thus becoming the first race director.

11 non-smokers and 3 smokers started the race. Only four non-smokers finished however one smoker, Lou Wille who won the 1936 race as a non-smoker, did make it to the top. The winner, Monte Wolford, had placed 5th in the 1952 Junior Mr America competition and 10th in the 1954 Mr America competition. He had won the Mr Los Angeles and Mr Venice Beach competitions in 1951.

POS POS/DIV  NAME                      AGE  CITY             ST  ASCENT   DESCENT   TOTAL   ADJ ASC  ADJ DEC  ADJ TOT
  1     1/4  MONTE WOLFORD              28  COLORADO SPGS    CO  3:44:02  1:55:56  5:39:58  3:58:09  2:02:53  6:01:02
  2     2/4  TOM BREWSTER               16  COLORADO SPGS    CO  3:45:18  2:36:33  6:21:51  3:59:30  2:45:57  6:45:27
  3     3/4  ARNE L SUOMINEN DR         56  DEL RAY BEACH    FL  4:19:00  2:17:28  6:36:28  4:35:19  2:25:43  7:01:02
  4     4/4  ROBERT M JOHNSON           25  MANITOU SPRINGS  CO  4:05:00  3:09:14  7:14:14  4:20:26  3:20:35  7:41:01

DQ (stopped at top)
NAME                      AGE  CITY             ST  ASCENT   ADJ ASC
LOU WILLE                  44  COLORADO SPGS    CO  4:11:02  4:26:51           

Started, but did not finish or were not timed to the top by judges and timers who left summit at 4 p.m.
Frank Bader, 16, Colo Spgs, CO
Rudy Fahl, 58, Colo Spgs, CO (Pulled early because of hurt leg)
Walt Milliron, 18, Colo Spgs, CO
Pres O'Donnell, 23, Ft. Carson, CO
Bill Olsen, 18, Broadmoor, CO
Prof. Pagent, Raleigh, NC
Dick Wilson, 18, Colo Spgs, CO
Gary Ziegler, 15, Colo Spgs, CO

Ron Bierstedt, 21, Colo College via Darien, CN (turned back 1.5 miles from the summit)
Pat Scanland, 20, Topeka, KS

David M. McGranaghan, 31, Olean, NY

No Shows
C. E. Chouteau, 62, Muskogee, OK
Oren McClure, Colo Spgs, CO
Walter Smith, Rosita, CO
Al Thomson, Ft. Carson
Robert Tomko, 23, Ft. Carson

Clayton Krewson, Kessler AFB, MS
Richard Royal, Manitou Springs
Bill Stevenson-Miller, Colo Spgs, CO
Notes: The race started and ended by the COG depot so it was 1.1 miles shorter
than the current Pikes Peak Ascent and 1.85 miles shorter than the current Pikes
Peak Marathon which starts at the Manitou Springs courthouse and ends at Ruxton and
Manitou Ave. This change took place in 1976. The adjustment times are for comparisons
only and were made by adding 6.3% to the ascent time and 6% to the descent.

Some modern accounts have the race with 13 starters, 10 non-smokers and 3 smokers. Older accounts put it at 14 — 11 NS and 3 S. Neither seem to count Rudy Fahl as a starter. But even older race day accounts list him as a starter and state that he dropped early because of a leg that he hurt in training. Further a late entrant seems to only be counted by some accounts. Even more confusing is that some accounts give conflicting numbers depending on the paragraph you are in! All the different accounts get brought forward into time by new accounts.

Even more interesting is that one account says 7 non-smokers and 3 smokers made the summit so if in fact Ron Bierstedt, a smoker, did turn back as most accounts agree that could mean that there was a fourth smoker in the race. It may have been David McGranaghan, the late entrant. He is listed by one race day account as a smoker and in a post race account, which also lists his age, as a non-smoker.

To do my part to add to the confusion I used race day and day after race day accounts that list starters and no shows to come up with 16 starters — 12 NS, 3 S, and 1 unknown although I lean towards this one being a smoker. I did come up with the original 23 entrants often used in pre race accounts with McGranaghan’s late entry making it 24. It is just a matter of who showed up on race day and it could be that on race day some people were mistaken for others thus accounting for all the different accounts. For example one race day account lists 14 starters but says outright that Bierstedt (a smoker who turned back close to the summit) and Brewster (who got 2nd place) did not start. At any rate, I have put up 14 as the starters until I can confirm my 16 count and because I can at least see that many (including I believe Brewster) in the cropped photo of the start. I am sure better accounts are out there somewhere but we may never know...

Arne Suominen’s total time varies slightly depending on the source and in one case the same source had two different times. This I believe, is the correct time.

Last regenerated: 1/5/2019 12:04:49 PM

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