Nearly 650 runners from all 50 states and 30 countries came to Leadville, Colorado, to compete in the legendary Race Across the Sky and run 100 miles through the Colorado high country in elevations ranging from 9,200 to 12,600 feet with a total elevation gain of more than 18,000 feet.
What started with just 45 runners in the Leadville Trail 100 in 1983, the Leadville Race Series now consists of six running events, the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, and six mountain biking events in the Leadville Qualifying Series.
The series stretches across three months and hosts thousands of racers on foot and bike in some of the world’s most iconic mountainscapes. Endurance athletes worldwide now make the pilgrimage to Leadville, Colorado, with the single goal of competing in “The Race Across the Sky” and walking away with some metal.
Ian Sharman of Bend, Oregon, won the race for the third time (with previous wins in 2015 and 2013) with a finish time of 16:22:39 — and beat his personal best from last year’s win by a whopping 11 minutes. For the second year in a row, Kyle Pietari of Denver finished second at 18:16:48; and Luke Jay of Littleton, Colorado, finished third at 18:31:22.
In the women’s division, 24-year-old Salomon athlete Clare Gallagher of Boulder, Colorado, took first and came in fifth overall in her very first attempt at a 100-mile distance. She finished in 19:00:27, setting the second-fastest women’s time in the race’s 33-year history and two hours faster than second-place Maggie Walsh (21:00:28). Jennifer Benna of Reno, Nevada, finished third at 21:45:00.
Photo by Ryan Patrick Lassen
“I was really surprised. I couldn’t believe it,” said Gallagher, who trains in Boulder with the Salomon Run Club and Rocky Mountain Runners. “The last two hours were horrific. I owe so much to my support crew and my pacers. I was spent at Winfield (aid station), and my pacers were just incredible. My long-term goal is to be able to compete around the world as a professional runner, and now I could have the opportunity to do that. I’m just so happy.”
Gallagher’s running career started at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado, where she competed in cross-country and track. During her college career at Princeton Gallagher specialized in steeplechase and cross-country, but suffered a number of injuries during her four years. After graduating, Gallagher moved overseas to pursue a teaching fellowship in rural Thailand. In October 2014 she signed up for her first ultra-marathon—a 50-mile trail race in northern Thailand.
In 2016 Gallagher has earned podium finishes at the Golden Gate Dirty 30 50K in Black Hawk, Colorado; the USA Track and Field 30K National Championship in Colorado Springs; and the Aspen Power of 4 (25K) in Aspen, Colorado.
The Leadville Trail 100 run also marked the fifth and final challenge for those who competed for the title of Leadman and Leadwoman. Each Leadman and Leadwoman candidate must also compete in the Leadville Trail Marathon, Leadville Silver Rush 50-Mile Mountain Bike or Silver Rush 50-Mile Trail Run, Leadville Trail 100 MTB and the Leadville Trail 10K Run. This year, Leadville’s own Wesley Sandoval finished fourth overall in the Leadville Trail 100 Run at 18:40:01, with a total Leadman time of 35:54:55 smashing the existing Leadman Record by 26:31.
Said Josh Colley, Leadville Race Series Race Director: “The accomplishment of running 100 miles is not only done through grit, guts and determination, but also the support of crews and volunteers on course. By working together, we can all accomplish amazing results and encourage each other to lead a healthier way of life.”
There is a 30-hour cut-off for the rugged out-and-back race, and roughly half of the contestants are unable to finish the race each year.
For complete results visit www.LeadvilleRaceSeries.com.
Lead image of Clare Gallagher and this image of Max King courtesy Glen Delman Photography