Since the launch of the website RunAspen.com and specifically focused on the Leadville Trail 100 Run – I have received a few questions about the race and course in general. Today I will answer the question – How much of Leadville is runnable?
Reader Questions – How much of Leadville is runnable?
This is a great question and it certainly deserves a better answer than, “it depends.” But this is where I will start from as it certainly does depend on the runner, how they train, and what his or her strengths and weaknesses are.
How much of Leadville is runnable? I have often read and heard that Leadville is a “flat course.” Of course, it is not. However, much of Leadville is runnable, especially on the outbound. For instance:
Everything from the Start to Mayqueen is certainly runnable. Most of the climb to the top of the power lines is runnable with maybe some hiking mixed in on the Colorado Trail segment.
From the top of the power lines to Fish (Outward Bound now) is runnable, and for the most part everything from Fish/OB is runnable to the base of Hope Pass and the beginning of that climb. So more or less, ALL of the first 40 miles or so is runnable.
Most people hike up Hope Pass and run down the other side… I know that I do as I can get into a very strong power-hiking rhythm on the up that works just fine. In regards to running down the south-side of Hope Pass, well that certainly does depend on the runner. Not being a great down-hill runner, especially on that section, I might run it but I run it slow and very carefully.
On the inbound… the trip up Hope Pass for the second time; it is hard and I do not see too many people ever running on that section. However, once you get past Hopeless Aid Station, there is not any reason that you cannot run from there all the way into Twin Lakes without stopping to walk with the exception being the actual physical river crossing.
After Twin Lakes though is the BIG SURPRISE that I believe, catches many first time runners off guard and that is the four mile climb up and out of Twin Lakes. This segment looks deceiving on the elevation gain charts as it is right up again the Hope Pass section, but those four miles are tough, and at least half of it IS hiking. After that, to the top, there are plenty of places to mix in some running. After topping out after that climb and making that very distinct 90 degree left turn on top in the lodge pole pines, it is all running (or runnable) to Outward Bound.
That section though I believe to be the gut of the course and this is where people make it or are broken. This is where most “runners” become walkers and the difference is this… if you can run strong from TL to OB… chances are you will be sub-25 hours… if you walk that section… you are going to be closer to 30. My advice to ANYONE is always try to run that section in training and learn that you can run it so that when you do want to stop and walk during the race, you do not as you know that it is runnable.
The power lines going up… sure, that is mostly hiking but there are a few spots in there to get your legs moving and running and it is best to do that because you can run from the top of Sugarloaf all the way into Mayqueen. As for going back around the lake, the North Shore six-mile segment is a steady mix of hiking and running but past the boat ramp, it is all running.
If you have anything left at all, after descending the baby power lines, it is all runnable to the bottom of the boulevard… The Boulevard is very runnable, and if you are cruising at a 15-16 minute jog those last three miles… you ARE crushing it.
As for that hill that goes up 6th past the hospital… just do what you have to do there which more than likely is walking… But once you see the finish… RUN!
A quick overview of the course, which I believe, answers the question – How much of Leadville is runnable? To break it down into miles… 80 of the 20 miles are runnable if you can pull it off. However, to finish, most only run about 40 miles and walk/hike the other sixty compared to a Big Buckle ratio that at a minimum requires about 60 miles of running with 40 or so miles of hiking, etc, mixed in.
As I said, how much of Leadville is runnable – it all depends…
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Photo by Trey Barnes 8/20/2016 – Me entering the town of Twin Lakes.