Hardrock 100 al­ways fu­eled by fel­low­ship

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Daniel Petty Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post

SIL­VER­TON» As the clock ap­proached 5 a.m., the sun still tucked be­hind the moun­tains, they emerged bleary-eyed from the shad­ows and lined along­side the Sil­ver­ton High School gym.

It is known at the Hardrock 100 as “The Golden Hour” — the fi­nal 60 min­utes be­fore the 48hour cut­off for fin­ish­ing this 100½-mile odyssey through the rugged San Juan Moun­tains, a run that re­quires ath­letes to climb nearly 33,000 feet.

A small cadre of fans, crew mem­bers, run of­fi­cials and run­ners who have al­ready fin­ished gather to cheer and sup­port the last run­ners who will fin­ish and be known as true Hardrock­ers.

Among them is Kil­ian Jor­net, the Span­ish su­per ath­lete who some 24 hours ear­lier had won this run de­spite suf­fer­ing a dis­lo­cated shoul­der. He stood unas­sum­ing in a blue down jacket

and long black pants, his arm still wrapped in a gauze sling, a cam­era around his neck, another face in the crowd.

“It’s the same jour­ney and ex­pe­ri­ence for ev­ery­body. That’s why I want to be here to talk to peo­ple and what they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced and share some mo­ments of the race,” Jor­net told The Den­ver Post. “All the run­ners are here chat­ting with each other. To be part of the same ex­pe­ri­ence — you can be here run­ning, crew­ing or vol­un­teer­ing. It’s the same level of im­por­tance.”

At 5:49 a.m., Robert An­drulis, 49, rounded the turn to­ward the high school and trot­ted to kiss the Hardrock mark­ing the end of his nearly 48-hour jour­ney as the fi­nal fin­isher in this year’s event. Jor­net walked up and shook his hand — a 29-yearold prodigy who has set speed records shak­ing hands with an every­man 20 years his se­nior, shar­ing their ac­com­plish­ment. For An­drulis, a night­time equip­ment man­ager, it was his 10th Hardrock fin­ish.

“I get free train tick­ets,” An­drulis joked, ref­er­enc­ing the Durango-to-Sil­ver­ton train round trip the last fin­isher is awarded each year. “What do they call the last fin­isher of any race? A fin­isher. Ev­ery­one out here is fam­ily. That’s all that mat­ters.”

Jor­net of­fered An­drulis, who lives in Ari­zona, con­grat­u­la­tions. “I said, ‘Con­grat­u­la­tions on run­ning with that busted up body part of yours,’ ” An­drulis re­sponded.

Of the 145 run­ners who started at 6 a.m. Fri­day, 126 fin­ished the loop­ing course through Sil­ver­ton, Lake City, Ou­ray and Tel­luride, mark­ing the high­est num­ber of fin­ish­ers ever at the event, said run di­rec­tor Dale Gar­land. The run has soared in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years, at­tract­ing 2,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for this year’s event, up from 1,200 just a few years ago for its 145 slots. It has gained more cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship as ul­tra­run­ning’s pop­u­lar­ity has soared.

And de­spite the at­ten­tion, the run has earnestly main­tained the feel of a close-knit an­nual fam­ily re­union — the Sun­day morning awards are re­ferred to as “grad­u­a­tion,” and the Sil­ver­ton High School gym is packed wall to wall with 500 peo­ple. That am­biance is the rea­son of­ten cited by pro­fes­sional ath­letes and laypeo­ple alike who make the an­nual jour­ney to the San Juan Moun­tains. Jor­net, who has lit­tle left to ac­com­plish here af­ter four wins, in­tends to re­turn next year, he said.

In the race’s fi­nal miles, at Put­nam Ridge, Jef­fery Hart of Belling­ham, Wash., pro­posed to his long­time girl­friend, Jen­nifer This­tle. He car­ried the ring 92 miles on a key­chain in his pack, ner­vously check­ing pe­ri­od­i­cally to make sure it was still there. He and his young son had se­lected the ring. This­tle was go­ing to pace him for the fi­nal 11 miles.

“I wanted to make sure I could get there,” said Hart, 48, who was run­ning in his first Hardrock. “I was mo­ti­vated to fin­ish.”

“We get to the spot, and I said, ‘We should re­ally take a (pic­ture); this is amaz­ing.’ It was a high point, high on a ridge. You can see 50 miles in any di­rec­tion. So I said, ‘Let me get down and get my phone out.’ And then I said, ‘My legs, I can’t get up. Will you give me your hand?’ She reached down, gave me her hand, and I said, ‘Jen­nifer Joy This­tle. There is noth­ing in the world more …’ And at some point, she said, ‘Shut up, are you se­ri­ous?’

“I said, ‘None of this race would be pos­si­ble with­out you. To try to fin­ish this race with­out you know­ing how in­te­gral you are in that — how much you have been cen­tral to mak­ing it hap­pen, wouldn’t be fair. And I can’t think of a more beautiful place for that to hap­pen.’ ”

Even those who don’t get a chance to run jour­ney to Hardrock any­way. The an­nual lottery pro­duces a wait list of those hop­ing to get their shot. As par­tic­i­pants drop out be­cause of an in­jury or other rea­sons, wait­listed run­ners get a chance to run, some­thing Steve Collins of Durango was hop­ing for. Twelve days out, af­ter start­ing at 13th on the list in De­cem­ber, he was moved to the top of the list.

“I’ve been pre­par­ing like I was get­ting in all along,” Collins said.

He ta­pered his train­ing, set up his drop bags and crew, at­tended the ori­en­ta­tion meet­ing, and woke up Fri­day pre­par­ing as if he were run­ning an ul­tra­ma­rathon. Collins has ei­ther vol­un­teered or paced run­ners for seven years. Af­ter learn­ing at 5:53 a.m. he wouldn’t get in, he vol­un­teered to pace another run­ner.

“It’s Hardrock. I would have been here any­way,” Collins said. “It’s Christ­mas in July. It’s what I do for this time. … You know what? I’ll get in next year. … This is my tribe.”

Daniel Petty, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post

Caro­line Chaverot of France, right, and Joe Grant of the United States cross Cun­ning­ham Creek dur­ing the Hardrock 100 en­durance run.

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