MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — The Pikes Peak Marathon is called America’s Ultimate Challenge and it’s the oldest running marathon in the country.

It’s a part of history in the Pikes Peak Region and for the first time this year, special award was given to one marathon runner in hopes of it being a new tradition.

The “Phil up Your Heart Fund” was created in memory of Phillip, an avid runner who passed away earlier this year. To honor his life and love of running, his family created a $500 fund to give one runner.

“On his death bed, I asked him what were the three times in his life when he felt most like himself. And at the top of the list was when he ran the marathon,” said Angela L. Chostner, Phil’s sister. “I really wanted to remember him with love and joy and the things that made him happy. And I knew flowers, he was not a flowers person.”

Phil’s family raised the money by asking people at his funeral to donate to this special cause.

“He was a real renegade, a real independent thinker. We just can feel his spirit here today and we’re so happy to be here,” said Chostner.

Through the Phil up Your Heart Fund, the family selected one marathon runner who was nominated by fellow runners in the Pikes Peak Marathon.

“The person who we chose really just has this essence of Phil to them,” said Chostner.

“I’m overwhelmed and a little teary eyed. That means a lot,” said Dan Vega, recipient of the Phil up Your Heart Fund. “It’s just a blessing to the race. I mean a blessing to him itself and to the family. They honored him that much that they wanted him to be part of this forever.” 

Phil’s family asked runners to carry small painted rocks during the marathon in memory of Phil and leave them somewhere high up on the mountain where Phil loved to be.

His family family hopes this Phil up Your Heart Fund will be part of this marathon every year moving forward.