Hardrock Dreams

The Hardrock 100 mile race was started to honor the hard rock miners of the San Juans and the extraodinary mountains in which they lived and worked. The course is incredible – 33,992′ of of elevation gain, with an average altitude of 11,186′, including climbing over a 14,000′ mountain – which is often done in the middle of the night, sometimes during a lightning storm. The only comparable event in the world is the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc, with a similar course profile but at a lower elevation.

Only 140 people can enter each year – compared with 35,000 for the Chicago or New York City Marathons – but Hardrock is iconic, with an impact on the sport far greater than it’s size. Hardrock is a gathering of the tribe. It’s not exactly a a race; It’s where you come to pay homage to the sport of ultrarunning.

Peter Bakwin and Anton Krupicka are uniqulely qualified to give you the insider scoop!

First, Peter shares his thoughts on doing the Double – he is the only person to run the course twice in a row – 200 miles in one shot.  (He is probably the only person to even consider doing it!) Then tomorrow Anton will share insider info on Kyle Skaggs incredible course record, as well as how he sees the race shaping up for this year.


“Hardrock. It is difficult for someone who has not been there or spent a lot of time in the high mountains to comprehend Hardrock. The climbs are steeper, the descents are longer, the footing is worse. Hardrock is truly relentless. Excellent runners drop out because they are afraid of falling off a cliff, or being hit by lightning. Others are simply worn down. To finish Hardrock you have to look deep within yourself and find something powerful that motivates you. You need to find a true connection with the mountains, the thin air, the rushing streams, the icy cold nights with their crystal, star-lit skies. You need to touch the softness that hides in those dark cliffs and deep chasms.”

I wrote those lines in July 2006, shortly after finishing a Double Hardrock. For me, they express the heart of what Hardrock is about. It is more than a foot race. Hardrock is an expression of the love of being in the mountains, of being in nature, of being part of nature. It is a competition, yes, but it is more. Hardrock is a perspective on life and living.

Perhaps that’s why Hardrock inspires such loyalty and devotion. People come back year after year to run the race, to volunteer, to pace, just to be part of it. I haven’t run the race since my Double 6 years ago, but I go there every year.

This passion and perspective is embodied by Hardrock Race Director Dale Garland. Dale spends hundreds of hours per year on preparations for the race – finding volunteers, negotiating access, getting permits, purchasing supplies. During the 2 days of the race itself it seems like Dale must have a few clones – it’s like he’s everywhere. Does this guy ever sleep? He’s at the finish line for 24 hours straight (after the race has been going for 24 hours already), welcoming every runner back to Silverton.

One (unintended) consequence of the passion and loyalty that so many have for the event is the simple fact that it’s damned hard to get into the race. Hardrock is limited to 140 runners by the Forest Service Permit, yet every year 500-600 qualified runners apply (there would be many more but they know they can’t get in). To make matters (much) worse for Hardrock virgins, entry is by a lottery which is heavily weighted to favor previous finishers of the race. This also has a huge impact on the quality of the competition, since often the best runners are unable to gain entry. As frustrating as it may be for some potential entrants, the race organizers are simply unable to admit everyone who would like to run, so have come up with a system that reflects the priorities and values they envision for the event. As one well-known runner said, “there is significant probability of not ever getting in during my natural life”. Another runner tried to get in by (1) dating the RD’s brother, and (2) making cupcakes for the RD (neither plan worked – but she got lucky on the Waitlist and is in this year).

(Note – a new Lottery system will be instituted for 2013 – it very cleverly balances the equation and is being well-recieved).

Still, there are many ways to experience the Hardrock phenomenon without gaining entry into the race – crewing, pacing, or working an aid station, to name a few. Since runners over age 60 are allowed pacers for the entire race, it is even conceivable to run the whole thing without your own entry. Alternatively, you could do what I did for the first 100 of my Double – just run the course yourself without aid or fanfare (I began 48 hours before the start of the actual race). The mountains, after all, don’t care – they are just the same.

See you in Silverton!

 Please post your Comments!  What do you think of this event?


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6 thoughts on “Hardrock Dreams

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I went to hard rock last year to volunteer at an aid station. I met Peter there and our conversation made a lasting impression on me. I was feeling a bit down about getting timed out of a race I’d attempted that was way beyond my fitness level. He said, “Why do something you know you can do?” I’ve thought about that a lot. Sure successes are great and easy wins feel good but when you try something your not sure about, that’s when you really know your alive.
    I’m curios though, why haven’t you raced since then?

  2. Ha! Good question Jennifer, and one that’s much better discussed over beer than trying to answer in 100 words here. But, in brief, I’ve found that my motivations around running & adventuring have gone through a process of purification over the years. More and more I do just exactly what I enjoy, nothing more or less. For me, in a race, it’s easy to get sucked into an external goal – a time or place goal – which doesn’t feel as central to why I love to be out in the mountains. Another issue is that racing takes a lot of time. If I want to run Hardrock, I’m going to taper for 2 weeks, and then I’ll be pretty trashed for 2 weeks after the race (not to mention all the event-specific training). That’s pretty much a month right out of the middle of summer – I could do all kinds of fun adventures in that time! So, I’m just following my heart & following what brings me joy. This is why my UD profile says “I don’t care about running. I just love to do it.”

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  4. Peter
    I remember your article in Ultra Runner Mag. When I read it it brought tears to my eyes. What you experienced and how you were able to put that into words was beautiful. That is why I love to run its the experience inside oneself, the joy, the love, and beauty of everything that pulsates. You are one of my favorite runners who inspires me love hearing anything you have to say. Keep on being

  5. Peter,
    How lucky we are to be in the presence of a master — one with skills far beyond the comprehension of most, but with the humility of a beginner. You have a rare ability to share what is most important, and thereby inspire us all.
    With gratitude,

  6. Peter,
    I will never tire reading this story. The journey has been amazing, from the first time I met you and learned about your Double Rock experience and then doing Soft Rock with you and wondering how the hell anyone does this craziness in one go, to being a Hardrock finisher myself. I too am inspired by you!!!! Keep on keepin’ on!

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