Upcoming Race: Leadville Trail 100

This is actually being published after the race, but this is what I would have posted had I started this blog a few weeks earlier. It provides some useful background for those who will read my soon-to-be-posted race report.

The Leadville Trail 100 is a race that was added to my bucket list in the last couple of years. When it comes to road running it was the Comrades and Boston Marathons that were at the top of my list, and when it comes to trail running it was Leadville that piqued my interest. I cannot accurately recall when I first learnt about Leadville, but it was either while reading Chris MacDougall’s brilliant book “Born to Run” or Dean Karnazes’ “Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner”. I am unsure whether my first reaction was an immediate desire to sign up, but I imagine that I more likely thought it sounded a little bit (or maybe a lot) crazy. But at some point I realised that completing a 100-mile foot race was not only feasible but actually desirable (and maybe even enjoyable). Yes, I did just mention 100-mile race and enjoyable in the same sentence and no, I did not miss a negative in there.

In November 2011 I signed up for the Leadville Trail 100 to be run on 18-19 August 2012, and that left me with only a few things to do: complete a training plan with ludicrous mileage, get my mind around the fact that I would need to run for approximately one entire day, and plan to fly to the other side of the world in order to do that.

But what is the Leadville Trail 100?

For those with a short attention span: Leadville Trail 100 is a 100-mile (161 km) race completed entirely at altitude incorporating a dual ascent of Hope Pass (elevation 3,822 metres). And if you want more stats, more history, and hopefully more useful details read on.

Leadville Course Profile
Leadville Course Profile

The Leadville Trail 100 is an approximately 100-mile (161 km) run starting and ending in Leadville, Colorado (USA). Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the country at an elevation of 10,152 feet (3,094 metres). The course runs 50 miles out from Leadville, passing its low point of 9,200 feet (2,804 metres) at Twin Lakes around 40 miles into the race, before climbing to the high point of 12,540 feet (3,822 metres) at Hope Pass, and then descending into the ghost town of Winfield. Upon reaching Winfield you turn around and climb back up Hope Pass to retrace your steps for 50 miles back to Leadville. This year’s race was the first to include a newly completed section of trail from the trailhead at the south side of Hope Pass into Winfield, replacing the former route along the unsealed Winfield Road, and adding some mileage to result in a course of approximately 102 miles (164 km).

The race was first competed in 1983 as a means to save the dying town of Leadville after its mines had been closed, with the town having the highest unemployment rate in the country at the time. The race has been so successful that the Leadville Race Series is now run each summer, comprising running races of 10 km, a half marathon, a marathon, a 50-mile race and the original 100-mile race, as well as mountain bike races of 50 and 100 miles. The Leadville Trail 100 in 2012 was the 30th running of the race.

The route includes four main aid stations (May Queen, Fish Hatchery, Half Pipe and Twin Lakes) that are passed on both the outbound and return journeys, plus the Winfield aid station at the turnaround point. These aid stations are separated by distances varying from 11 to 21 km. Additionally there is a fluids-only aid station at Mt Elbert (between Half Pipe and Twin Lakes) and a limited aid station just to the north side of Hope Pass (which has supplies carried up by llamas). Runners are allowed to use pacers from the halfway point at Winfield, and may use multiple pacers but only one at any time.

There are cutoff times at each of the aid stations along the route, and a cutoff time for crossing the finish line of 30 hours. Finishers are awarded a silver belt buckle for completing the race in under 30 hours, or a larger silver and gold belt bucke for completing the race in under 25 hours.

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