The Leadville Trail 100, one of America’s most iconic ultrarunning events, attracts thousands of runners, spectators, crews and volunteers each year at the end of August to the quaint mountain town of Leadville, CO—America’s highest incorporated city, situated in high plains of the Rocky Mountains at 10,152 feet. The 2022 Leadville Trail 100 Mile, held August 20 and 21, was another exciting edition of this historic event.
Since its inception in 1983, it has earned the reputation as one of the most challenging courses in the country because of its high altitude (the entire course is between 9,200 and 12,500 feet), varied terrain and unpredictable weather. The race also has two of the most “mythical” records in the sport, of 18:06:24 set by four-time women’s winner Ann Trason in 1994, and 15:42:59 by Matt Carpenter in 2005.
[PRO TIP: Want to learn more about the achievements of some of the best athletes in the history of trail running? Read my article “Top Five Achievements in American Trail Running History”]
2022 Leadville Trail 100 Recap: Adrian MacDonald and Clare Gallagher Earn Their Second Wins in Dominant Fashion
On the start line of the Leadville Trail 100 were many of the county’s top ultrarunners. In the men’s field, last year’s champion Adrian MacDonald (Fort Collins, CO) returned to defend his title. MacDonald said about his expectations for this year’s race, “Last year’s race was life changing. I’m hoping for much of the same!”.
Matt Flaherty (Bloomington, IN), last year’s runner-up who finished in an incredible time of just under 17 hours would also be returning, along with 2:15-minute marathoner and USATF 50-Mile Road National Champion, Tyler Andrews (Concord, MA), and one of the most decorated ultrarunners in our sport, Ian Sharman (Bend, OR), who has four wins at this event.
In the women’s field, all eyes were on the much anticipated return of Clare Gallagher (Boulder, CO – pictured top of page), 2016 Leadville Trail 100 Champion, who recorded the second fastest time in race history of 19:00:27. Others to watch included 2019 Leadville Trail 100 third place finisher and 2021 Tahoe 200 runner-up, Samantha Wood (Manitou Springs, CO), top five finisher at the 2022 Vermont 100 Mile Kris Rugloski (West Columbia, TX), 2022 Silver Rush 50-Mile Champion Lindsey Herman (Gunnison, CO) and 2021 Run Rabbit Run Champion and Speedgoat 50K record holder Addie Bracy (Denver, CO).
After an early morning start in darkness at 4:00, runners would follow the historic out-and-back route from downtown Leadville, along dirt county roads and single-track trail to the top of the race high point, Hope Pass (12,532 feet), and descend back into Leadville for the finish.
The mens’ race began tactically, with defending champion MacDonald in the lead, followed closely by several other runners just minutes behind including Tyler Andrews, JP Giblin, Matt Flaherty, Brian M. Babyak, Christopher Harrington and multi-time US Mountain Running Team member Josh Eberly.
MacDonald made his move on the climb just past the Twin Lakes aid station (mile 37.9). This is one of the most challenging parts of the course and featured a 3,000 foot climb in just four miles from Twin Lakes (mile 37.3) to the race high point on top of Hope Pass (mile 43.5). This is where the weather is often the most dicey. The early forecast indicated rain and thunderstorms, which fortunately did not hit as strongly as expected, and runners were treated to many hours of cooler temperatures ideal for faster running.
Andrews made a similar surge and remained within fifteen minutes of MacDonald up the climb and to the descent back into Twin Lakes.
MacDonald continued to extend his lead over Andrews and the rest of the field, running solo to an impressive finishing time of 16:05:44. This was the third fastest time in course history, only behind ultrarunning legends Rob Krar (15:51:57) and Matt Carpenter (15:42:59). MacDonald shared his thoughts about his race experience this year as compared to last, “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. After a slow start, I took off and ran the rest of the way solo. I had a bit of a rough patch halfway, but seeing the other competitors at the turn around put me back in the racing mindset. I tried to close hard and run under sixteen hours but I am happy to win again with the third fastest time.”
He would finish two hours in front of runner-up, Giblin, who posted a time of 18:07:50. Giblin shared his post race thoughts, “I have loved racing the runs in Leadville over the summer. The town is so welcoming to the athletes and seeing everybody from the front of the race to those just trying to finish inspired me to push myself to become a better runner. I’m looking forward to toeing the line again next year!”
The final podium spot was tightly contested between several runners who were all within 30 minutes of each other at the final checkpoint at mile 87.9. Kaiser, who made a strong surge up Hope Pass to move from eleventh to fourth, moved up into third in the final half marathon to complete the podium in a time of 18:21:21.
Andrews, who faded from second to fourth in the second half of the race described his race experience and battle with MacDonald in the first half of the race, “Personally, I felt great through 100-110km and then my stomach went south and I wasn’t able to fuel properly for the next few hours, which then got me into a pretty deep nutritional hole that I couldn’t get out of. I’m disappointed as it definitely wasn’t the result I was hoping for, but I am so grateful to have the opportunity to put myself out there for these huge days and unbelievably thankful for my crew, without whom I certainly wouldn’t have finished. The body is pretty beat up, so I haven’t thought about what’s next yet, but I’m sure I’ll keep banging my head against the wall that is the 100 mile distance until I get it right.”
The top five men all went under 19 hours and finished before midnight. Full results are available here.
In the women’s race, all eyes were on Gallagher to take the early lead and repeat her victory from six years ago. Since her incredible win as a first-time 100-mile runner at Leadville Trail 100 in 2016, Gallagher has continued to find success and gain experience in ultrarunning. She has won several prestigious events including the 2019 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run and the 2022 Black Canyon Trail 100K.
Gallagher and Addie Bracy led the women’s field, trading the lead through the first 50 miles. Returning from the climb up Hope Pass, Gallagher led the race, followed by Bracy less than fifteen minutes behind. Bracy then made a strong surge out of the Twin Lakes aid station to catch and gap Gallagher by over six minutes. The yo-yoing of these two amazing athletes continued, but abruptly came to an end at mile 70 when Bracy unfortunately had to withdraw due to symptoms of rhabdomyolysis and uncontrollable vomiting. Bracy explains her experience after the race, “I knew I wanted to go for a big effort and said I’m either going to have a special day or blow up trying. I was on my goal pace all the way until Twin Lakes inbound but started feeling the same exact symptoms of rhabdo that put me in the hospital in February and on top of that, couldn’t even keep down water without puking. Not a good combo. I promised myself (and my parents) that I wouldn’t risk pushing through something like that again. Pulling out at 70 miles was the unfortunate but right call for my body.”
Gallagher, whose battle with Bracy had left her well ahead of the rest of the field, faced increasingly scattered storms and cooler weather in the night to finish in 19:37:57 (twelfth overall). Gallagher reflected on the experience of her second win at this historic event, “It was a misty, hard day. I loved racing with Addie early on and was quite bummed for her race to end early. I loved the camaraderie I shared with so many people, especially with my amazing crew. Seeing eventual second and third place women finishers (Aly and Lindsey) on the Winfield out and back was joyous and motivating. And then running with my buds Marvin and Joel (both Coloradans) and Brian from Albuquerque was memorably fun in the hard third quarter. Of course I’m tired and can’t really feel my legs right now, but I feel grateful!”
Alisyn Hummelberg, finished runner-up over two hours behind in a time of 21:58:59. Herman rounded out the women’s podium in 22:50:41, securing a podium spot in her debut 100-mile race. Herman said about her race experience, “The Leadville Race Series has truly become my family since finding success at the Silver Rush 50, so it was really special that I got to debut in the 100 mile distance at the Leadville Trail 100. The entire community that makes up these events is simply incredible, and that energy truly fueled all 100 miles for me. The entire day was about gratitude. I’m grateful that I get to opt into pushing my limits and that Leadville is the most amazing place to do it.”
The top five women all finished within twenty-four hours. Complete women’s results are available here.
Out of the 707 runners to toe the line at the 2022 Leadville Trail 100, 363 reached the finish line under the 30-hour race cutoff. Finishers received the iconic Leadville Race Series buckle at the finish line and awards were given on the Lake County High School football field to the top three overall men, women, age-group, and para athlete finishers.
See even more race images by Peter Maksimow on Google Photos.