Mid-life mountaineer

For Tabor College professor and cross-country coach Karol Hunt, turning 50 years old this past year triggered an unusual response.

Instead of sitting back, relaxing and embracing her age, Hunt decided to prove to herself and to others that reaching 50 doesn’t have to be the peak of her physical lifestyle.

Hunt decided to participate in the Pikes Peak Ascent Half Marathon Aug. 17 at Manteau Springs, Colo.

“I tell everybody it was my mid-life crisis,” Hunt said. “I turned 50 in April and I wanted to do something that was challenging, but fun.

“My real push to do it was that I want to remain physically active as I mature,” she said about her decision to compete. “It helps me relate to my (cross- country) runners when they want to quit. I knew I could finish, but you just have to push yourself.”

More than 1,500 people participated in the event. Hunt finished 214th out of 526 women with a time of 4:36.04.

“I was a little disappointed with my finish,” Hunt said. “When we got above tree line, it got really tough.”

The Pikes Peak Ascent is 13.1 miles long with an elevation of 14,110 feet.

Hunt said her training began several months prior to the event at her place of employment during the summer in Allen Park, Colo., which is located just outside Rocky Mountain National Park.

“I lived at 8,500 feet for a few months prior to the race,” Hunt said. “I worked at (Highlands Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center) and hiked 14 miles twice a week. Two weeks prior to the Pikes Peak Ascent, I hiked Long’s Peak, which was 14,256 feet in elevation and 15 miles round trip. I did it for the physical and mental aspect of the conditioning.”

No stranger to competitive events, Hunt said her experience in the Bank One Marathon in Ohio in 1985 paled in comparison to her most recent accomplishment.

“I’ve done a marathon before,” Hunt said. “This was tougher than the marathon by far.”

Hunt said the event was challenging from the start, but she said her hiking partner, Dave Strom, a facilities manager at the camp where Hunt works in the summer, kept her mentally motivated during the race.

“Dave is really more of a mountain biker,” Hunt said. “I really like hiking with him because we have about the same pace. We push each other-he picks me up when I get down, and I pick him up if he gets down. He was a great encouragement throughout the race.”

Hunt said she also found inspiration from the story of an 89-year-old woman who had died during the ascent on her 18th attempt.

“I want to be active enough that I die doing something active like that lady,” Hunt said.

An overwhelming feeling of discouragement enveloped Hunt midway through her climb.

“When you see the top of Pikes Peak, it seemed like it would never end,” Hunt said. “I hit the wall about three miles from the top. But I never had a doubt that I would finish.”

Despite the difficulty of the race, Hunt said she may revisit it some day.

“I’d like to do it again,” Hunt said. “My mid-life crisis ended at 11:40 a.m., Aug. 17. I learned some things.”

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