In the heart of the Colorado Rockies lies an event that embodies the essence of endurance, tenacity, and the indomitable spirit of trail running – the penultimate Leadville Trail 100 Run, also known as “Race Across the Sky”. The LT100 is the original event of the Leadville Race Series featuring one-hundred miles of extreme terrain that reaches 12,600 feet of elevation at Hope Pass. The 2023 event marks its 40th year, and the course comprises forest trails and mountain roads through the Colorado Rockies and is held in San Isabel National Forest. The Life Time Leadville Trail 100 Run is not just a race; it’s a journey into the annals of history, where runners follow in the footsteps of trailblazers who have etched their names among the Leadville Legendary. It’s no surprise that the team at Strambecco considers the Leadville Trail 100 Run to be one of the Best Trail Running Events in the Rockies.
The LT100 is also a Grand Slam of Ultra-Running and a Rocky Mountain Slam Series event. The Leadville Trail 100 Run takes place the weekend after its warmup event, the Leadville 10k Run, and the infamous Leadville Trail 100 MTB, one of the Best Mountain Bike Events in Colorado and the Rockies, all produced by Life Time Events.
Event & Course Info
The Leadville Trail 100 Run’s origins go back to 1983 when community champions were determined to boost the local economy and celebrate the town’s mining heritage after the closure of the Climax Molybdenum Mine. This is where the idea of a grueling ultramarathon trail race was born to showcase the tenacity and indomitable spirit of the Leadville community. Runners must confront high-altitude challenges, extreme weather conditions, and technical trails, making it a true test of physical and mental endurance. This challenge would forever change the world of ultramarathons, and over the years, this iconic event has grown into one of the oldest and most celebrated endurance running races globally. As the roots of the event continue to be the Leadville community, a welcome benefit dinner on Thursday at Freight kicks things off with dinner provided by Silver Dollar Saloon raising funds for two amazing organizations, Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation and Life Time Foundation. These strategic partnerships and projects are aimed at benefiting Leadville and Lake County communities, including just this past year, over $400,000 given in college scholarships to graduating seniors pursuing higher education, grants for new trails in Leadville, support has been extended for healthy lunches and necessary improvements to local schools.
The Course: The Leadville Trail 100 Run is not for the faint of heart; it’s a brutal out-and-back ultramarathon that pushes runners to their limits and beyond. The race kicks off at 4am on Saturday, and while the course starts and finishes in Leadville, the real battle lies in the unforgiving terrain that stretches between those points. Starting at 10,200 feet, ascending to 12,600 feet, and tracing back through the stunning landscape of the Rockies, the Leadville Trail 100 Run presents a true elevation rollercoaster. The terrain varies from forest trails to mountain roads, offering a constantly changing backdrop that tests not only physical endurance but mental resilience. The route is characterized by steep climbs like Powerline, high-altitude passes such as Sugarloaf, and technical sections on the Colorado Trail. These challenges culminate in a total elevation gain of over 18,000 feet, with the crux of the course being Hope Pass, which stands at 12,600 feet above sea level.
The course boasts a total of 12 aid stations, each serving as a crucial pit stop where runners can refuel, rehydrate, and recharge their determination. Among these, 10 are fully stocked with an array of supplies, including nutrition, hydration, medical assistance, and the camaraderie of volunteers and fellow runners. For those who need a quick boost, there are also two hydration-only stations offering a refreshing mix of Coke and water.
Leadville Trail 100 Run participants must be prepared to face the unpredictable nature of Colorado’s high country weather. The month of August in Leadville showcases a range of temperatures, with daytime highs reaching the upper 70s and nighttime lows plummeting to the upper 20s. The region’s weather can switch from sunny mornings to sudden afternoon showers, and runners might even find themselves racing through rain, hail, and snow. Above all, lightning is a serious concern, especially when ascending to higher altitudes. Hypothermia poses a significant risk due to the combination of dropping temperatures, wind, and precipitation. Runners are cautioned to never attempt the journey to Hope Pass without proper warm and protective clothing, considering that the summit looms at an astonishing 12,000 feet.
For those who manage to conquer the course in under 25 hours, a coveted “BIG” buckle awaits, an emblem of their achievement and a badge of honor earned through sheer willpower. Similarly, runners who complete the race in under 30 hours earn a “small” buckle, a testament to their dedication and grit. The awards celebrations begin at 12pm on Sunday.
Participation in the Leadville Trail 100 Run is not simply a matter of registering; it’s about earning your spot on the starting line. There are several paths to securing entry into this iconic event:
1. Lottery: winning a spot in the lottery process
2. Leadville Trail 100 Run Camp + Entry Package: Registering for the camp along with an LT100 Run entry guarantees a spot in the sold-out race.
3. Qualifier Events: All Leadville Race Series running events serve as qualifiers .
4. Charity Slots: Some entries are reserved for those who commit to raising funds for charitable causes associated with the event.
5. Boundless Coaching + Entry Package: Aspiring runners can secure entry by participating in coaching packages provided by Boundless, a training partner of the Leadville Race Series.
6. Life Time Members: Members with an active membership receive guaranteed entry
7. Volunteer Opportunities: Volunteering for any Leadville Race Series event can earn runners preference in the lottery for the Leadville Trail 100 Run.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
A visit to Leadville, CO, is an opportunity to explore history. Leadville has six local museums, and the Museum Passport is available to share among friends and family to tour the historic attractions any time during race season, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Hiking, cycling, and water sports at Twin Lakes are popular outdoor activities to enjoy in the area while in town, or if you extend your weekend, drive over beautiful Independence Pass to enjoy a visit to Aspen.
Favorite restaurants among locals and tourists in Leadville are Treeline Kitchen, the Golden Burro, and High Mountain Pies. For lodging, participants can stay at area hotels, bed & breakfasts, home rentals, cabins, and campgrounds. Also, remember that the gorgeous Copper Mountain Resort is close-by and open for summer starting in early June and easy camping is available at Colorado Mountain College.
Outdoor loving friends and family who are supporting their athletes in Leadville, will be impressed with the amount of activities there are to enjoy in the area’s stunning mountainous landscape. It is a hiking paradise, where those looking to bag come iconic peaks can consider tackling Mount Elbert and Mount Massive, two “Fourteeners” (peaks above 14,000 feet) offer not only breathtaking panoramic views but also a sense of accomplishment as you conquer their summits.
Mountain bikers that aren’t quite up for the 100 mile race, will enjoy Leadville’s scenic cross-country paths and heart-pounding downhill runs, such as the Mineral Belt Trail, a 12.6-mile loop that winds through historic mining sites and offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. For those seeking more adrenaline, the nearby Copper Mountain Bike Park provides gravity-fed trails, jumps, and features for an exhilarating downhill experience.
Finally, Leadville’s pristine lakes, rivers, and streams make it a haven for fly fishing enthusiasts. With its elevation and abundant natural water sources, the area offers unique opportunities for anglers to test their skills. Turquoise Lake, located just outside of Leadville, is a popular spot for fishing, known for its rainbow, brown, and lake trout. The Arkansas River, renowned for its gold medal fishing waters, is also within reach, offering the chance to catch trout amidst stunning alpine scenery. The summer months provide ideal conditions for fly fishing, with clear waters and ample insect hatches.
The Leadville Race Series started in 1983 with just a single race through the Rocky Mountains. Produced by Life Time Events, it has now expanded in the United States with multiple running and biking events. For trail running, the series includes the following summer events: Leadville Trail 100 Run, Austin Rattler Run, Leadville Trail Marathon & Heavy Half, Silver Rush 5 Run, and Leadville Trail 10K. Due to popularity and participant demand, the challenging series also invites runners to a 3-day Leadville Trail 100 Run Camp. It is a long weekend of getting to know your fellow racers through intense training with expert runners and celebrating the amazing scenery of the Rocky Mountains with great food and trails. Leadville Race Series MTB also has many mountain biking events throughout the summer and fall for those also interested in mountain biking.
The Leadville Trail 100 is also a Grand Slam of Ultra-Running and a Rocky Mountain Slam Series event. The Grand Slam of Ultra-Running is a series of five races representing the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile races contested in the US. The series includes the Old Dominion 100 in Virginia, Western States 100 in California, the Vermont 100, Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado, and the Wasatch Front 100 in Utah. To be eligible for the award, participants must officially complete three of the four first Grand Slam Series races and then complete the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run, all in the same summer. The Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run is the series’ final race and is mandatory. You must apply for all the races you plan to run during their open registration period.
To complete the Rocky Mountain Slam Series, men and women have to finish four out of five annual races in the Rockies: the Bighorn 100 in Montana in June, the Hardrock 100 in Colorado in July, the Leadville Trail 100 in Colorado in August, the Wasatch Front 100 in Utah in early September and the Bear 100 in late September.