Hardrock Hundred runners make their way down a scree field into Swamp Canyon during the 2012 race. Due mostly to the luck of the race’s lottery, this year’s field promises to be the most competitive yet, including several past years’ winners as well as local ultrarunning phenom Dakota Jones./Photo by Steve Eginoire

Romancing the stone

World’s elite runners vie to be first to kiss the Hardrock in strongest field yet

by Missy Votel

It’s hard to say which is steeper this year: the course at the Hardrock Hundred or the competition. Considered by many to be the hardest hundred-miler in the country, this weekend’s race will traipse nearly 68,000 vertical feet (up and down) of the San Juan Mountains’ notoriously rugged and unforgiving terrain. For the vertically challenged, that’s roughly the equivalent of running from sea level to the top Mount Everest – and back.

But perhaps even more daunting is the competition. Through a fortuitous combination of factors, this field for the 21st running of the Hardrock is stacked deeper than the San Juans themselves.

“The level of the top competitors is much deeper than we’ve had in the past,” Race Director Dale Garland said Tuesday.


What: 21st annual Hardrock Hundred
When: July 11-13, 6 a.m. - 6 a.m.
Where: Starts and finishes in Silverton
Info: www.hardrock100.com

Garland attributes this year’s field – which includes local ultra-running celeb Dakota Jones as well as last year’s male and female winners, Sebastien Chaigneau from France and Darcy Africa, of Boulder – mostly to the luck of the draw. Racers who meet the rigorous prequals are chosen through a weighted lottery, a complex formula that takes into account several factors, including when and how many times they’ve run the race. “The luck of the lottery was probably the biggest reason,” said Garland.

However, the bucket list mentality and “mystique” of the Hardrock and its fabled course also played a role.

“The Hardrock has become known as one of those things everyone wants to do,” he said.

This year’s race saw an increase in applicants of 50 percent over 2013, with more than 1,200 racers vying for just 140 spots at the start line. Rubbing elbows Friday morning in Silverton will be a veritable who’s who of the ultra-running world, including several local runners as well as racers from 43 states and 36 countries.

In addition to 23-year-old phenom Jones – who got his first taste in ultrarunning by working aid stations for the Hardrock – are local runners Phil Wiley, Brett Gosney, Rick Pearcy and Drew Gunn.

Defending champion Chaigneau, a newcomer who ran the course’s second-fastest time last year in 24 hours and 25 minutes, will be leading the Hardrock’s international contingent, which also includes fellow Frenchman Julien Chorier (the 2011 winner); Killian Jornet (Spain); Tsuyoshi Kaburaki (Japan); and Adam Campbell (Canada). The Unites States will also be well represented with Joe Grant, Ted Mahon and Scott Jaime (all of Colorado) as well as Jared Campbell (Utah) and Timmy Olson (Ore.)

The women’s field also features in impressive line-up. Not only is 2012-13 champion Africa returning, but so is women’s course record holder and four-time winner, Diana Finkel, of South Fork. Also dueling it out to be the first female to kiss the hardrock will be Utah’s Sarah McCloskey, 2013 winner of the Bighorn (Idaho) 100 and Wasatch 100.

The gun goes off Friday at 6 a.m. in Silverton and officially ends 48 hours later. The race course is at an average elevation of 11,000 feet, with several forays over 13,000 including one to the summit of 14,048-foot Handies Peak. Several aid stations are set up along the course, which alternates between clockwise and counterclockwise each year (clockwise this year) and passes through the towns of Lake City, Telluride and Ouray.

For a complete map or more details, go to www.hardrock100.com

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