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Longs Peak Run

After getting some real good feedback from quite a few friends and followers from different social media outlets I decided to do a post on my Longs Peak run experience. So here it is…

…Every morning I wake up in Fort Collins and head on out for my run, bike ride, or else just on my way to work. And I see it – Longs Peak. Its always the peak I look to because its the biggest, badest, and most beautiful mountain in the front range of Colorado. It towers above all other mountain peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park at 14,256 feet. And every morning I look at it and it laughs right back at me. Well, not anymore…

8:11 am and my first foot-step hits the trail – a very, very late start by Longs Peak hiker standards. Most hikers start around 2-3am if they want to summit before the typical afternoon showers set in. But my intention wasn’t to summit Longs Peak, my intention was to do a much longer, easier long run right by it. Flash back 30 mins to when I first arrive to Estes Park, the last town you’ll hit before arriving at Longs Peak Trailhead and when you get a spectacular view of Longs itself. It was enticing me again, as it always does. Maybe I’m just a crazy mountain man who thinks mountains are talking to me, enticing me, or taunting me (Mountain Whisperer?). Maybe I’m just someone who’s pretty competitive and even seeing a mountain is like an instant challenge to me. Maybe I’m just a little bit crazy and the thin air is really less oxygen to my brain instead of increasing the size of my lung capacity. Whatever it may be, right then I changed my mind and knew I wanted to run up Longs instead. I know I’m not cut out for the average American lifestyle – and I’m totally loving the one I’ve created and continue to pursue for myself here in Colorado. 

Start of Run at 9,393 feet!

Back to the first footstep, which started at 9,393 feet – yikes! I’m used to 5k feet back in Fort Collins, which is decent elevation, but there is a significant difference from the start, I can tell. The first 3 miles was all in the shade of the tree line, which was absolutely gorgeous. There was a running creek along most of the trail and waterfalls at some of the switchbacks I wish I would have gotten a picture of. I had to keep running though – this was a training run. It had to be in the low 40s at the start, because between mile 2-3 I remember seeing my breath while running. I knew it wouldn’t last, especially when I got out of the tree line into the sun. But if the thin air wasn’t a big enough clue how high I was, seeing my breath in July was surely another sign. 

Leaving the tree line and into the sun:

After getting out of the tree line (around 11k feet) and around 3.5 miles into my run I was ready for some Colorado sun! I came prepared this time with sunscreen already on. (Lesson learned from getting fried a week prior running up at Lory State Park) So now it was just me and Longs Peak in view with about 4 more miles to the summit. I made my first stop near the BoulderField for this fantastic view…

BoulderField and Longs Peak view:

Running before BoulderField approach (thanks for the photo Ciara!):

Ciara stopped and chatted with me for a minute, asking me where my backpack was at. After taking my picture and telling me I was crazy in a very good way I was off to the field of boulders!

This is where the actual run turned into more of a slog (slow jog) as I was hopping over the boulders and making sure to just not get hurt. The boulders were not very fatiguing – and I made my way up to the keyhole, which was the name of this route I took to climb Longs. (This is by far the most commonly traveled Longs Peak route)

Standing in the iconic Keyhole!

So the run turned into a slog and the slog turned into a climb from here on up! 1,200 vertical feet left from here in about a half mile! And it’s all marked incredibly well with bulls-eyes from the Keyhole to the summit. 

Bulls-eye trail marker and incredible lookout:

The Trough” was next, and this was by far the toughest part of the run/climb for me. This had to be close to 20% grade up lose, jagged rock for what felt like an eternity. My quads were really tired after making it through this section. Kinda felt like I had run a 400 meter dash in my track days and had absolutely no oxygen left in my legs to go on. 2 mins changed all that and I was back on solidering up the mountain! 🙂

The Beast knows as “The Trough”

After the trough you reached the narrows, which is pretty self explanatory. One wrong step and it was game over…

“The Narrows” in thick cloud cover:

The final home stretch was one last big wall of boulders before the summit. And I might have set a new record on that face because it was all adrenaline propelling me forward at that point, I could see the top! 

Sign to the Summit!

2 hrs 12 mins to the top! 

View of Mount Meeker South of Longs (13, 911 ft) 

I’m in a cloud on Longs, yo! 🙂

P.S. Proof! 🙂


After soaking in the sights, sounds (I love the sounds of the wind and air at extreme heights), and euphoria of the summit. It was time for my way back down – but not before making a quick video while on top! 🙂


The summit of Longs Peak took me 2 hours 12 mins, which was surprisingly a lot faster than I had anticipated! I knew the way down would be easier on my lungs, but much tougher on my legs. (I’ll take the lung workout over knee pain 9 times out of 10). Once again, the sketchiest part was the “Trough”, which had me going very slow and using my arms a lot to guide my legs down with less impact. 

Once I passed the Trough, made it back to the Keyhole, and past the boulderfield I was homefree – time to run again! I really didn’t care if I went a little harder than I should for the pounding on my knees going downhill, I was so eager to run again after the climbs and descending in elevation! 

The rest is history, I made it back down very fast and very safely in 2:14 – slower than the ascent but no surprise because I took my time coming down Longs through the climbing part. The hardest part of the trip whether you are hiking or running is by far the way down through the Narrows and the Trough. A lot of people think they are “home-free” after summiting but they are far from right about that.

I must also say there were so many encouraging people on the way up and down that were literally cheering me on, giving me high fives, and clapping for me. I didn’t expect the trail to be very crowded on a Tuesday, but there was easily 50+ people I encountered on my way up and down – which just shows how popular this hike really is! Love the attitude that the hikers presented. Each one more enthusiastic, talkative, willing to share food/water/stories than the next. I think that’s partially why this was also such a good time, the people you meet out there.

This is why I continue to run so much. It’s not about running the fastest up the highest mountains in the shortest times. It’s about the people you meet, the way it makes you feel, and the overral happiness and person I am when I do these things. I genuinely feel really good in so many ways. Why wouldn’t I keep this up? 

Seeing sights like these don’t hurt, either: 

So I’m guessing I’ll probably get quite a few “first time page viewers”. So I’ll explain that the goal isn’t for this sight to show what I’m up to every second of the day. While right now it’s primarily based on my adventures – it’s called the ColoradO2 Lifestyle for a reason, and no longer Ryan Levander’s racing site. I want this to be about the people of Colorado and the lifestyle that so many choose to live out here – the outdoors. So go ahead and bookmark this page, it’s here to stay.I hope you enjoy my photography/media and keep a look out for more posts by other Coloradans in the near future! 

Until next time, live life epicly! 



Posted by ryanlevander on July 12, 2012
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. 07/12/2012

    It looked as though all you had with you was a tiny water bottle! How can you exert yourself like that and not need a ton of water?

    • 07/12/2012

      I had a 24 ounce water bottle and used it very wisely! I’m really not someone who needs a ton of water unless the temperature is crazy hot. It was in the 40s to 60s during the run, my definition of a perfection run! I also brought along chia seeds in a flask with quinola. Chia seeds absorb and hold quite a bit of water so those were very helpful, too!

  2. 08/1/2012

    Hello Ryan,
    Just a quick message to ask if you would be interested in a ‘mutual’ following on twitter. I am currently following you now and am awaiting for your follow-back if you indeed decide to do so…

    All the very best for the rest of 2012 and beyond Ryan. Hope to hear back from you…

    PS.(#FYI I do RT’s for all #Triathletes #Cyclists #UltraRunners & #Marathoners who follow me and have something important they want mentioned…)


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