So many stories.
Every one of the 798 starters at the 30th running of the Leadville Trail 100 Race Across the Sky on August 18 has one to tell. And so do the hundreds of race organizers, volunteers, and crew members needed to make it happen.
Of those who tackled the unforgiving monster at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning—a course that traverses 50 miles of high altitude Rocky Mountain terrain and then asks you to turn right around and do it again— 360 made it within the 30-hour time limit.
Those of us who haven’t run this race can’t know how they really felt—in their bodies and in their heads and hearts. But it was a privilege to be there, to be allowed a tiny peek into these ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing.
The finishers ranged in age from 19 to 60-something. Fifty-five were women. They came from 18 countries and 41 states, and they brought with them their spouses, parents, children, dogs, friends, and gear—from special food and drink to clothing for all kinds of weather, hiking poles to navigate the tough terrain, and Tylenol to ease the pain.
As a group they represent the epitome in athleticism, discipline, willingness to hurt, love of challenge, and fierce determination. As individuals they come alive in their diversity.
Robert the young “fruitarian” from Tennessee with a carful of hundreds of apples and bananas who swore his new-found diet cured the pain in his knee.
Chris from Maryland, who hadn’t a clue about altitude, paced by his 16-year-old son and supported by Karen, his wife. “We like to share each other’s dreams.”
Three Fort Collins runners made the cut. Doug Nash completed his fourth LT (Leadville Trail)100 in 29 hours 25 minutes, supported by his wife, Marji, experienced crew manager, who made the complex route-finding, parking, re-supplying with food, drink and clothing job look simple.
Nick Clark, third overall in 17 hours 11 minutes, explained the challenge of consuming enough calories to maintain energy while running uphill at altitude and not choking or throwing up. Alex May came in at 29 hours 42 minutes.
Starting on the return trip from Winfield at the 50-mile mark , runners are allowed a pacer to run beside them and provide moral support, carry a water bottle, and during the night, provide extra light and watch for obstacles in the trail. A few go it alone, but most welcome the company, and pacers get a taste of what it’s like out on the trail. When their 10 or so miles are done, they wave their runner on, ,thankful to be finished with their part.
For most, the sun had risen again by the time they caught sight of the relentless clock at the finish line. And most walked toward it, some more gimpy than others, accompanied by their pacers, friends and family who had lived through their runner’s experience on the sidelines.
At the awards ceremony every finisher got called up individually to receive the coveted silver and gold belt buckle. Like graduations, it takes a while, but like graduations, it ranks right up there with life’s memorable moments.