Runners Endure Long Miles on Arduous Mountain Course
OURAY – To the average runner, the idea of running for 40 hours straight over thirteen 12,000-foot ridges for 100 miles sounds like a nightmare. For endurance runners, it is a dream come true. Starting from Silverton on July 11, 124 men and 16 women will test their strength and sanity on the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run.
Dubbed “Wild and Tough” by race organizers, the course follows trails and abandoned roads originally created by miners, linking together the former mining centers of the San Juan Mountains – Silverton, Telluride, Ouray, and Lake City. The course provides extreme challenges of altitude, steep climbs and descents, and remoteness. By the time runners cross the finish line in Silverton, an average of 48 hours after they start, they will have ascended and descended approximately 66,000 feet.
The Hardrock 100 Endurance Run was started in 1992, with San Juan Mountain locals Gordon Hardman, John Cappis, Charlie Thorn, and Rick Trujillo setting the course. Since then, the race has continued each year, alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise, with only two races cancelled due to snow and fires.
While snowpack posed a threat this year, the hard work of Course Director John Cappis, in conjunction with local trail groups, has ensured that the 15th annual race will happen. Earlier this month, Cappis and the Ouray Trail Group rebuilt a sizable portion of the Bear Creek Trail, which takes runners out of town toward Engineer Pass. With three new bridges, the trail is passable despite destruction this winter by large avalanches.
Volunteers operate 13 aid stations along the route, where runners can re-fuel and check in with medical volunteers. Ouray Town Park is one of the major stations along the run. When runners reach Ouray, some 10-17 hours after starting, they will have run 44 miles, climbed 13,999 feet and dropped a knee-jarring 15,629 feet (given no unexpected route-finding problems).
According to Race Director Dale Garland, Ouray is “a critical place for runners,” where they face some of their toughest decisions. Along with the Grouse Gulch aid station (14.5 miles after Ouray), it is where many runners drop out of the race. In Ouray, runners face the choice of setting out on some of the steepest climbing (especially true with this year’s clockwise direction) or soaking their aching bodies in the hot springs.
Despite the difficulties, many runners come back year after year. This year will be the 15th year that Grand Junction resident Kirk Apt has entered the race. If he finishes, he will retain the record for the most finishes, at 14. Apt won the race in 2000 at 29 hours and 35 minutes, and holds the 10th best time in race history.
Asked what he expects for the upcoming race, he said, “It will be completely different this year. It will be a mental and spiritual pursuit for me this year.” As to why he keeps coming back, Apt said, “nothing else I do in my normal life matches it.” He said he feels like he experiences the euphoria and rough times of an entire year all wrapped into a short time period.
“It challenges you on every level. You can check out of normal life and focus on putting one foot in front of another.”
Runners from 24 states, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Francen, and Germany are entered in the race. Seventy-two-year-old John DeWalt, from Sarber, Penn., will hold the honor of the oldest runner. The youngest runner will be Kyle Skaggs, 23, from Glenwood, N.M. Nine-time finisher Betsy Kalmeyer of Steamboat Springs is expected to lead the women’s field.
The only locals entered in the race this year are Telluride’s Ricky Denesik and Silverton’s Rodger Wrublik, though several hold spots on the waiting list.
Runners will be making their way into the Ouray Town Park on Friday, July 11 between 3 p.m. and midnight.