Leadville is a funny place. Well, maybe that is just the way it seems. At 10,200′ above sea level, the thin air makes everything seem giddy.
This town was once one of the richest towns in America thanks to the boom in the mining industry. When that dried up, most of the people left. However, some people stayed around and tried to continue living. But, the town was slowly dying away and something needed to be done to draw people back to the highest incorporated town in America. Thus the Leadville Trail 100 was born. Sprouting from that seed are 2 other running races (a marathon and 10K), two bike races (a 50M and a 100M) and a weekend trail running camp.
Most of the country knows about the Leadville Trail 100, but not too many know about the other events. So, I decided to tackle the Leadville Trail Marathon for a small taste of what Leadville has to offer.
The only description of the course given on the website is as follows: “26.2 miles of breathtaking, Leadville Rocky Mountain trails, summiting notorious 13,188 ft. Mosquito Pass. Seven well-supplied aid stations.” That leaves much to the imagination. I expected to run a gradual climb up Mosquito Pass (about 3000′ gain) and then an easy return home. This, however was not the case. With over 6000′ of climbing and descending, all at above 10,000′, this race is not to be taken lightly.
However, if you want to run in some of the most spectacular scenery around and don’t care how long it takes to finish, then this is your race. The course is 90% jeep mining roads (which can be rocky and very steep) and 10% single track. The volunteers at the aid stations are tremendous. And, these are not your typical aid stations. Remember, this is the crew of the Leadville 100, so expect some good grub at the aid stations.
All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable marathons I have ever run (at 4:42, I had a long time to enjoy it). And that is not the thin air talking either!