On Aug. 7, 1959, Arlene Pieper accomplished the Pikes Peak Marathon, a grueling mountain course in Manitou Springs, Col., that no different girl had completed in its temporary historical past.
She ascended 8,000 toes to the 14,000-foot summit and descended the identical approach in 9 hours and 16 minutes.
“On the end line, I felt fairly good,” she mentioned in an interview with the Boston public radio station WBUR in 2017. “I’m positive I used to be somewhat drained, however I wasn’t utterly exhausted. I misplaced all my toenails a couple of days later.”
Her achievement didn’t produce a thunderclap within the sports activities world and stayed one thing of a secret as girls competing on extra outstanding levels achieved marathon milestones: Roberta Gibb grew to become the primary girl to run in and full the Boston Marathon in 1966, and Joan Benoit gained the primary girls’s Olympic marathon, in Los Angeles, in 1984.
After ending Pikes Peak, Ms. Pieper returned to work on the girls’s health studio that she and her husband, Wallen Pieper, owned in Colorado Springs.
She didn’t know for 50 years that she had made athletic historical past of her personal: She was the primary girl ever to finish a sanctioned marathon in the USA.
Solely then would glory come.
Ms. Pieper — who was recognized most lately as Arlene Pieper Stine — died on Feb. 11 in Capitola, Calif., south of San Jose. She was 90.
Her demise, which was not extensively reported, was confirmed by her daughter Kathie Pieper, who mentioned her mom had Alzheimer’s illness.
Arlene Val Richter was born on March 18, 1930, in Studio Metropolis, Calif. Her father, Armin, owned a furnishings firm, and her mom, Valbourg (Petersen) Richter, was a phone operator.
Arlene met Mr. Pieper, a bodybuilder and soccer participant, in highschool; he introduced weights to her home and so they labored out in her kitchen. They have been nonetheless of their teenagers once they married.
She additionally threw the javelin and discus at an area observe, her daughter mentioned in an interview. After her marriage, she helped her mother-in-law make costumes for the Ice Capades and Mr. Pieper attended U.C.L.A. whereas working in a health club.
They moved to Colorado Springs in 1957 and opened Arlene’s Well being Studio. Mr. Pieper prompt to her that she promote their enterprise by competing within the Pikes Peak run, which she first did in 1958. However she stopped after reaching the summit, and he or she was disqualified.
“That received her all upset,” Kathie Pieper mentioned, “and he or she mentioned, ‘I’m going again subsequent 12 months.’”
She redoubled her coaching and was ready for Pikes Peak that sunny August day in 1959.
“I had my brief shorts on that we used to put on again then and a white shirt tied in a knot — that’s how we did issues again within the ’50s,” Ms. Pieper Stine instructed WBUR. “And my tennis footwear from the dime retailer, and off I went.”
She was accompanied on the ascent by her husband and Kathie, then 9, whose 5:44.52 time trailed her mom’s by 27 minutes. One other girl, Katherine Heard-Fahl, ran solely the ascent. Twelve males and a horse named Min accomplished the race.
After Ms. Pieper completed the descent in 3:54.08, her marathoning profession ended. She and her husband returned to California in 1961 and ultimately divorced. Her marriages to Eddie Garza and Richard Stine additionally led to divorce.
Within the years after returning to California, she lived in Fresno and labored in health studios and in gross sales. And what she had executed on Pikes Peak was largely forgotten.
“It’s like she bumped into obscurity,” mentioned Ron Ilgen, the president of the Pikes Peak Marathon, who started to seek for her within the early 2000s.
However her relocation, and her varied identify adjustments, made her tough to seek out. A non-public detective failed. Then, in 2009, as an occasion to honor the fiftieth anniversary of her achievement approached, Mr. Ilgen tried a unique tactic.
“I ran an advert within the native newspaper: ‘Discover Arlene Pieper,’ with a $200 or $300 reward,” he mentioned in an interview. “We have been getting determined. And a genealogist took maintain of it like a bulldog.”
The genealogist, Linda Vixie, not solely tracked down Ms. Pieper but in addition instructed her by cellphone of her distinction as the primary girl to finish a certified marathon.
“It simply — simply blew me away,” Ms. Pieper instructed WBUR. “I mentioned, ‘I’m the primary?’”
For the subsequent decade, Ms. Pieper Stine loved newfound standing in Manitou Springs as a pioneer on a number of marathon weekends. She signed autographs. Runners requested to the touch her for good luck. And she or he was the official starter of every race she returned to.
“That first 12 months we received there, 2009, folks have been lined up on the road,” Kathie Pieper mentioned. “We have been in a automotive and he or she was waving just like the queen.”
Ten years later, a gaggle of girls, wearing white as Ms. Pieper Stine had in 1959, honored her by operating the ascent per week earlier than the marathon.
She was additionally named one in every of Runner’s World’s “Heroes of Working” in 2014 and inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports activities Corridor of Fame in 2016.
Along with her daughter Kathie, she is survived by two different daughters, Karen Pieper and Linda Garza; a son, Karl Pieper; 4 grandchildren; and 4 great-grandchildren.
On race day in 1959, there have been no support stations on the mountain path, no volunteers handing out bottled water or Gatorade. Ms. Pieper drank from a stream.
And as she handed some males on the ascent, her daughter recalled, she requested them, “Isn’t it a lovely day for a race?”