The Leadville Trail 100 Run (aka The Race Across The Sky or the LT100) is an ultramarathon held annually on trails and dirt roads near Leadville, Colorado, through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. First run in 1983, runners in the race climb and descend 15,600 feet (4,800 m), with elevations ranging between 9,200–12,620 feet. In most years, fewer than half the starters complete the race within the 30-hour time limit.
The course is a 50-mile (80 km) out-and-back dogleg, starting at 10,200 feet (3,100 m). The centerpiece of the course is the climb up to Hope Pass at 12,620 feet (3,850 m), encountered on both the outbound trek and on the return.
Race co-founder Kenneth Chlouber, an avid marathon runner, conceived of the race as a way to make Leadville famous and bring visitors during a period of economic downturn. When he told the local hospital administrator about his idea he was told, "You're crazy! You'll kill someone!" Chlouber responded, "Well, then we will be famous, won't we?"
Leadville is one of the four 100-milers in the United States that make up the "Western Slam", completing four western 100-mile (160 km) events: the Leadville 100, the Western States 100 in northern California, the Wasatch Front 100 in Utah, and the Angeles Crest 100 in southern California. Leadville is also a part of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (the Vermont 100, Western States 100, Leadville and the Wasatch Front 100, originally Old Dominion 100 instead of Vermont) and an optional part of the Rocky Mountain Slam (Hardrock 100 plus three of four other races in the Rocky Mountains: Leadville, the Bear 100, the Bighorn 100, or the Wasatch Front 100). Leadville is also one of the valid qualifying events for the Hardrock 100 (This information may be outdated, contact the Hardrock organizers to confirm).
Leadville was the venue for the American debut of the Tarahumara runners of Mexico. In 1992 the Tarahumara first showed up to run outside their native environs. Wilderness guide Rick Fisher and ultra-runner Kitty Williams brought some of them to Leadville. However the experiment went bust. The problem, it turned out, was psychosocial, i.e. an unfamiliarity with the trail and the strange ways of the North. The Indians stood shyly at aid stations, waiting to be offered food. They held their flashlights pointed skyward, unaware that these "torches" needed to be aimed forward to illuminate the trail ahead. All five Tarahumara dropped out before the halfway point. The Tarahumara teams came back with vengeance in 1993 and 1994 and won the Leadville event outright both years. In 1993, 52-year-old Tarahumara runner Victoriano Churro came in first, followed by 41-year-old teammate Cerrildo in second. In 1994, a five-man Tarahumara team took on Ann Trason in a much-publicized race in the ultrarunning community. Twenty-five-year-old Tarahumara runner Juan Herrera won in a record time of 17:30. His mark stood for 8 years until broken by Chad Ricklefs in 2002 (17:23), then again by Paul DeWitt in 2004 and finally by current record holder Matt Carpenter's performance in 2005. Trason's time of 18:06 was good for second place overall, and is still the course record for female runners.
Matt Carpenter is the current course record holder. His time of 15 hours and 42 minutes in 2005 shattered the previous Leadville Trail 100 record. The publisher of Colorado Runner magazine, Derek Griffiths, said afterwards, “It was a perfect race for him. He finished in daylight, for crying out loud — no one has ever done that before. I think he has just raised the bar of ultra racing to a whole new level.”
Ann Trason holds the female LT100 record, 18:06:24, which she set in 1994.
Charles Williams holds the record of the oldest man to ever complete the race, which he did at the age of 70 in 1999. He was featured in the August 1999 issue of GQ magazine, which compared his training for the race to that of a professional football player.
Bill Finkbeiner became the first person ever to receive the "Leadville 2000-Mile Buckle" for twenty LT100 finishes in 2003. Finkbeiner, Tim Twietmeyer at the Western States 100, Rick Gates at the Wasatch Front 100, Jussi Hamalainen at the Angeles Crest 100, and Garry Curry at the Angeles Crest 100 are other 20-time finishers of 100-milers in the modern era. In 2014, Eric Pence and Kirk Apt finished their 20th LT100.
The LT100 is one of six races presented under the Leadville Trail 100 banner. The Trail 100 10K is an open event the week before the main Trail 100 race, comprising the first and last portions of the full Trail 100 course.
In 1994, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB mountain bike race was added. This USA Cycling-sanctioned race is held on a course that roughly parallels the LT100 run course, with some sections in common. It is held the same weekend as the 10K, and has attracted cyclists including Dave Wiens, Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis. In 2010, Levi Leipheimer won the Leadville Trail 100 MTB in a record time of 6:16:37, breaking the previous course record of 6:28:50 set in 2009 by Armstrong.
The Silver Rush MTB race is a USAC-sanctioned 50-mile (80 km) mountain bike race through the mining districts east of Leadville in late July. The Silver Rush 50 run is a 50-mile trail run introduced in 2008. The Silver Rush Trail Run race follows the same route as the MTB course. The event occurs the day after the MTB event. Competitors who complete both Silver Rush events are recognized with a Silver Queen or Silver King award.
The Leadville Trail Marathon, a 26.2-mile (42.2 km) marathon through the mining districts east of Leadville, is held in July each year. The midpoint of the course is at Mosquito Pass, with an altitude of 13,185 feet (4,019 m). In 2006, a "heavy" half marathon event of 15 miles was added, which is run on the same day and also goes to the top of Mosquito Pass.
A competitor who officially finishes the Trail 100 Run, Trail 100 MTB, the Marathon, the Silver Rush bike or run, and the 10K is called a "Leadman" or "Leadwoman", a title which nods to the Ironman Triathlon. Charles Bybee currently holds the most Leadman titles, with 9 years of finishing all events (2007-2010, 2012-2016).