COLORADO SPRINGS — Joseph Gray is a world champion runner and competes in trail and mountain races all over the world, but the Pikes Peak Ascent still ranks high on his list as Gray looks to become a four-time winner in 2021.
“You can’t help but notice this huge peak that’s over looking the city,” Gray said. “I feel like you got to defend the land, right? You don’t want to let someone from outside the city come get a ‘W.'”
Gray has lived in Colorado Springs for almost seven years and 2021 marks the fifth time he’ll run up Pikes Peak.
“I love running to the top of peaks,” he said. “It just makes a whole bunch of sense to run a race that’s also competitive, 14,000 ft, right in your backyard.”
As a three-time Ascent winner, he looks to defend his title in the grueling 13.3 miles up to the summit of America’s Mountain. While Gray has run up to the top of several 14ers, he said Pikes Peak is unique.
“This one requires you to be a very diverse athlete. You need to be able to be fast, you need to be able to handle steep terrain and also a little bit of rocky technical terrain because you kind of see it all over the course of the half marathon,” he said.
The Ascent is one of 15 to 30 races Gray will run in a given year. Aside from quenching his thirst for competition, running allows him to find perspective.
“I always say I’m like Curious George,” he said. “I like to explore things and explore places and this sport allows me to take my feet and go out and see the world as I want to.
And, reaching the summit of a mountain let’s him enjoy the journey beneath him.
“It helps me really appreciate earth and the blessing of life,” Gray said. “Just seeing the beauty that we have just sitting right there for us and when you’re up that high you can see it all, water, the trees, everything, so it’s a really cool feeling up there.”
The Pikes Peak Ascent is Saturday, August 21 and the Pikes Peak Marathon follows on Sunday, August 22.