What is Hardrock? The 100-mile run starts and ends in Silverton, Colorado, and travels through the towns of Telluride, Ouray and ghost town of Sherman, crossing 13 major passes (or peaks) at an elevation of 12,000 – 13,000 feet, with the highest point on the course being the 14,048-foot summit of Handies Peak. Since 1992, the run has been held in early July each year, except for 1995 (too much snow) and 2002 (nearby forest fires). We can now add 2019 to that list of unfortunate years.
This year, race weekend would have seen 140 runners begin their 100-mile journey but instead, the Hardrock Fatass – a 24-mile run – and a potluck dinner were held as a celebration in Silverton. It was a chance to bring the community together one last time and say farewell to another year gone by. So what exactly happened this year?
In early June, organizers released this statement on the website:
“While snow and snow water equivalent levels looked to be dropping to manageable levels, other issues such as unprecedented avalanche debris, unstable snow bridges and high-water levels all contributed to us reaching the tough final decision that we did.”
Not only does Hardrock fill the hearts of participants and supporters, but it also helps fill the pockets of small businesses in Silverton. So, word went out and everyone agreed that while there may be no “official” race, there was a community waiting. Hundreds of people made their way to Silverton and instead of feeling sad for what wasn’t, we celebrated what was.
Throughout the week, runs were held on the safe parts of the course and open to runners of all abilities, happy hour was every night with free drinks courtesy of sponsors, t-shirts were for sale with proceeds going to the local search and rescue, friendships were formed, memories were made and yes, while no buckles were handed out, no love was lost for the race that never began. Why? Since 1992, the race continues to live on in the hearts of everyone who knows what Hardrock has to offer.
When walking down the main street of Silverton during Camp Hardrock, it wasn’t uncommon to see some of the biggest names in ultrarunning including Jim Walmsley, François D’Haene and Anna Frost walking to have their coffee from Coffee Bear, sharing the trails, providing helpful insight and tips, as well as laughter over beer at the end of the day.
I came to the US to run Western States in June and I stayed to participate in Hardrock, whatever that meant. I wasn’t entered in the race nor was I there to pace or crew anyone, I was just there to be part of the event. In the end, I witnessed two American 100-mile races from two very different perspectives, and had two incredible experiences. I realized that running isn’t about competing; it’s about coming together to make the most of whatever is thrown your way and enjoying the mountains. Hardrock will go on in 2020 with the promised field of 2019, but with an even deeper respect for the mountains as well as the memories that lift us up and make us smile.
I’ll see you in Silverton in 2020, probably sitting in this same chair at the café after running around some hills myself, grateful for everything that Mother Nature provides, the people that Hardrock brings together and the purpose it gives, and of course, watching those finish line kisses on the famous rock, which I’m sure will be that much sweeter.