Race Across the SkyA first 100-miler attempt involves ample sweat, suffering and tears, and reveals what it really means to "dig deep"
Duncan Callahan, 27, of Gunnison, Colorado, crests the top of Hope Pass, which, at 12,600 feet, is the race's highest point, en route to winning his second Leadville Trail 100 in 17:43:24.
Loose rocks roll under my shoes like ball bearings as I skid down the spine of 12,600-foot-high Hope Pass. Nearing the halfway point of my first 100-miler, I struggle to find balance while moving as quickly as possible down the steep mountainside, leaning heavily on my trekking poles to save my quivering quadriceps.
After descending 3000 feet in three miles, the trail meets a dead-end dirt road cutting up a deep, narrow valley. I run a few painful running steps before deciding to walk the two and a half miles to the ghost town of Winfield, laboring to suck oxygen from the thin air clouded with dust churned up by a caravan of slow-moving crew vehicles. Weariness hangs on me like a lead apron and my feet throb like meat slabs beaten with a tenderizer.
I wander, dazed, into Winfield aid station, scanning the sea of cars and tents for a familiar face. “El, over here!” my husband, Rob Russell, and friend Sari Anderson call out.
A potent mixture of exhaustion, low blood sugar, relief and dread swirls inside me until I begin sobbing. Rob sets out a camp chair. Taking the weight off my feet feels so good that I consider never standing up again. By any measure, 50 miles in 11 hours is no small feat. But it is not today’s goal. That involves turning around and running those 50 miles all over again.
Welcome to the Lifetime Fitness Leadville Trail 100.