Chasing the Belt Buckle

Leadville belt buckle

The coveted Under 25 Hour belt buckle from the Leadville 100 miler

The text message confirming my friend Ryan’s entry simply said, “All I’m going to say is…We better be sub 24 hrs!”. With that text message, Ryan added himself to a growing adventure this coming summer in pursuit of a special belt buckle, the Leadville 100 Race Across the Sky 100 mile trail run.

This is a serious 100 miler. While Julie and I have failed once before on a flat, no-altitude course in Texas, Leadville averages over 10,000 ft elevation for the entire race. The low point is 9,200 ft with a high point of 12,600 ft. It also boasts a finishing percentage somewhere in the range of 42%. So we have our hands full to say the least.

This all came about because of my brother and his friend Eric. They run together up in Wisconsin and while my brother is a marathoner and successful 100 mile ultra marathoner, Eric is the super-motivated one. He got the ball rolling for everyone and signed up for Leadville first, even though he hasn’t actually run an official marathon yet. So Jeff and I were talking on the phone last week and while I’m not sure who really pushed who to do the race, the end result was that while on the phone, we both paid our entry fees and committed ourselves to the Leadville 100 August 18th and 19th of next year.

100 Milers and Belt Buckles

For those not familiar with 100 milers, they usually have a few things in common. One, they have cut off times. For Leadville, all participants will have 30 hours to cover the 100 mile course. The course consists of roads – both paved and dirt, and mountain trails. It goes out 50 miles from the town of Leadville, starting at 4am and then turns around where we need to be back to Leadville by 10am the next morning. So we’ll be running through the night with headlamps on the high mountain trails west of Denver, CO.

Then there is the belt buckle. I’m not usually one for awards. I’ve been racing since I was five years old winning plaques, ribbons, medals, and all sorts of things throughout my running career. But the belt buckle actually motivates me. Each 100 miler has their own special belt buckle (usually pretty big belt buckle). Some provide buckles simply for finishing before the cut off time, others have buckles only for those under 24 hours, and others have different buckles depending on how long it takes to finish. Either way, very few people actually do what it takes to earn the coveted belt buckle and I’m excited to try for it.

Another unique aspect of 100 milers is how many people tend to be involved. For Leadville, we’re each allowed up to 5 pacers over our last 50 miles of the course and we’re allowed to have crew meeting us at various spots along the way with supplies and aid. We’ve received overwhelming enthusiasm from our running friends and many have offered to run with us or crew with us.

With that being said, it looks like we’ll have a heck of a party in Leadville this coming August. We have our upcoming marathons as a start to the training followed by the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler on February 4th and 5th. Then it’s time to start getting ready for the mountains of Leadville.

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