Colorado’s marquee trail race, the Leadville Trail 100 Run, kicked off Saturday. Two repeat winners would top the men’s and women’s podiums with impressive outings.
The last time Boulderite Clare Gallagher raced in a Leadville Trail 100 Run, she almost set a course record. That was way back in 2016 before her professional running career had even gotten off the ground.
In fact, she had never before entered a 100-mile professional race. Neither had Adrian MacDonald when he toed the line at last year’s Leadville 100. But both runners would put in superlative performances to win their respective races.
Fast forward to this weekend, and little had appeared to change.
The customary 12-gauge double-barrel shotgun blast sounded on Saturday at 4:00 a.m. local time at the 39th running of the “Race Across the Sky.” Gallagher and MacDonald both posted sub-20-hour times to take home top hardware.
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say the rest of the men’s and women’s fields could only watch; each winner left the second-place finisher more than 2 hours behind.
2022 Leadville Trail 100 Run
The Leadville Trail 100 Run follows a punishing circuit between 9,200 and 12,600 feet of elevation, tagging multiple high-altitude passes alongside peaks like Mt. Elbert, Mt. Hope, and Rinker Peak. In total, runners covered 15,744 feet of elevation change in this year’s action.
The climbing on the course really cranks up around the turnaround point at Winfield, Colo., as runners toil up and back down over 3,700 vertical feet over about 7 miles to negotiate Hope Pass — twice.
If it wasn’t for the course, the 30-hour time limit could seem generous. But in any given year, time runs out on about half the field before they make it back to Leadville. On Sunday, 363 of 707 runners finished under the gun.
An early pack in the men’s race delivered a little more drama than the women’s field did, but Gallagher and MacDonald each pulled away in a distinct moment.
“Heading into the race as the defending champ added a new dynamic. It seemed everyone was keying off me and expecting me to dictate the pace,” said MacDonald. “After a slow start, I took off and ran the rest of the way solo.”
MacDonald ran in a cluster of 10 runners for about the first 30 miles, iRunFar reported. Then that pack fragmented and left MacDonald at the front with Tyler Andrews. By the turnaround point, he’d built a 15-minute lead he would not relinquish, on his way to a 16:05:44 — the third-fastest time ever on the course.
“I had a bit of a rough patch halfway through but seeing the other competitors at the turnaround put me back in the racing mindset. I tried to close hard and run under 16 but am happy to win again with the 3rd fastest time!”
2022 Leadville Trail 100 Run Men’s Podium
- Adrian MacDonald, 33, Fort Collins, Colo. — 16:05:44
- JP Giblin, 28, Boulder, Colo. — 18:07:50
- Ryan Kaiser, 43, Bend, Ore. — 18:21:21
Elsewhere, Gallagher fought a pitched head-to-head battle with Addie Bracy at the top of the women’s field. The two ran neck and neck for most of the first half of the circuit, trading leads between checkpoints. Then Gallagher gained an advantage at the pivotal Hope Pass.
There, she steadily built on what started as a 6-minute lead. When Bracy had to drop out of the race, she left Gallagher alone. She took the first-place belt buckle in 19:37:57.
“The top of Hope pass was the best. We were in a cloud on the inbound, and then the rain cleared, it was phenomenal,” Gallagher said. “I loved seeing the runners go over, there’s a lot of camaraderie in this race being an out-and-back. Crossing paths with hundreds of other runners was so, so cool.
“My run in 2016 was a totally different beast,” she continued. “This [year] was really, really hard. But I had the best crew and my family.”
2022 Leadville Trail 100 Run Women’s Podium
- Clare Gallagher, 30, Boulder, Colo. — 19:37:57
- Alisyn Hummelberg, 30, Estes Park, Colo. — 21:58:59
- Lindsey Herman, 24, Gunnison, Colo. — 22:50:41
For full race results and more, go to the Leadville Trail 100 Run website.