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A Run Against Nature: The Hardrock 100

On July 14th, the Hardrock 100 will return to monopolize trail running attention like every year, while runners attempt to complete the famous loop counterclockwise.
hardrock 100 landscape
Image iRunFar

The Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is an ultramarathon of 102.5 miles in length, plus 33,197 feet of climb and 33,197 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 66,394 feet, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet.

Simple as that. This is how the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run describes itself. Behind this synopsis lies one of the legends of ultra running.


Everything started in 1991 thanks to Gordon Hardman who came up with the idea of a 100-mile trail-running event that would take place across the San Juan Mountains in Southern Colorado. The idea of a race linking the 4 towns of Ouray, Telluride, Silverton and Lake City came from the need of revitalizing the mountain communities who suffer from the economic crisis generated by the dismantling of the local mines and, at the same, celebrate the legacy of the hard rock miners. In this sense, the Hardrock 100 is very similar to another iconic race like Leadville 100 that originated from the same economic need - this is a story for another time.


Hardrock 100 2023 Course
Hardrock 100 2023 Course

In order to further stimulate the economies of the 4 towns, organizers thought of starting the course each year in a different town. This idea never became a reality because of the lack of interest from Ouray, Telluride and Silverton which are now relegated to memorable aid stations names. Despite the setback from the other towns, “we came up with the idea of one year running clockwise and another year counterclockwise” explained the long-time race director Dale Garland. Garland is a retired social studies high school teacher from Durango High School where he became one of the local community pillars. He found his call into ultra running by answering an open call to action from Hardman in a running magazine in 1991 where he explained his race idea and looked for help. 33 years after, the rest is history - as they say. Fun fact: he was Dakota Jones's teacher and the one who made him discover trail running. Jones himself volunteered at Hardrock 100 when he was in high school. He has always been passionate about running but a major injury prevented him to compete leaving him distressed about the sport.



You may have noticed that we are referring to Hardrock as a “run” and not a “race”. The event is not about competition between runners but competing against Mother Nature which in this case is the mountain and its weather conditions. The course goes through areas that can present unpredictable, often strenuous, weather conditions in addition to technical and steep terrain above 3,000 meters and highly exposed for long portions of the run. This is why the Hardrock 100 has a cutoff time of 48 hours and an average finish time well above other 100 Milers cutoff times (Clockwise 41:10:15, Counterclockwise 39:38:29) with most athletes going through two nights before closing the loop in Silverton and kissing the Hardrock. Runners do not have to cross a finish line to complete the run, but to kiss the Hardrock - a tradition begun on the first edition when Garland realized he did not have a finish line and appointed a random rock as the ending point of the loop.


Killian jornet hardrock 100 2022 finish
Killian Jornet sitting next to the Rock in 2022

Being one of the oldest ultra marathons and generating a mystical attraction to runners around the world, the Hardrock 100, which started with a handful of runners in 1991, is one of the hardest races to be accepted nowadays. The small number of participants allowed by the local trail permits, only 146, makes it incredibly difficult to participate- 2,200 runners entered the lottery in 2022. Its lottery system has been criticized for lack of transparency and equality with runners struggling to understand how they can be drawn and have their chance to run the loop. In recent years, organizers responded to the critics by restructuring and improving the lottery system. They created different polls based on historical performance at Hardrock 100, which affects the chances for a runner to be drawn. In 2022, they introduced a gender policy to increase female participation after harsh critics from elite women runners. With the new policy, the percentage of women chosen to start will not be less than the percentage of applicants that are women and, in addition to that, women and men have separate wait lists to ensure the right mix even after the lottery is drawn.


Courtney Dauwalter Hardrock 100 2022
Courtney Dauwalter on course in 2022

Top 5 Performances (as of 2022)

Men

Killian Jornet 21:36:24 (2022)

Francois D'Haene 21:45:50 (2021)

Francois D'Haene 21:51:19 (2022)

Killian Jornet 22:41:33 (2014)

Dylan Bowman 22:45:40 (2021)

Women


Well, in case you are among the lucky ones to get drawn for Hardrock 100 you might wanna go big and attempt the “Rocky Mountain Slam” which consists in completing 3 of the 4 other races in the Rocky Mountains: Leadville Trail 100, the Bear 100 Mile Endurance Run, the Bighorn 100, or the Wasatch Front 100 Mile Endurance Run. Go big or go home.


Blake Wood 1999 Hardrock 100
Blake Wood completed a new course record in 1999

If great performances, Scott Jurek, Killian Jornet, Courtney Dewalter and Francois D’Haene are all Hardrock 100 winners just to name a few, and the local communities support and love contributed to putting the run on the map, runners and creators telling their stories created the legendary aura around the Hardrock 100. We themselves spent hours consuming Hardrock 100-related Youtube content and got inspired by what goes on in Silverton every year. This should serve as a reminder of how much ultra-running storytelling relies on high-quality free content most of the time created for the love of the sport and the people who throw themselves in the arena. We selected our favorites Youtube videos about Hardrock 100 to build up your excitement for this weekend.


THE UNKNOWN - Billy Yang


True Hardrocker - Run Steep Get High


Peak Life Experience - Freetrail


Wild and Tough - Coconino Cowboys


Crewing & Pacing the 2022 Hardrock 100 - Jeff Pelletier


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