As the sport of trail running and ultrarunning has evolved and matured, certain places have taken on an iconic and even mythical stature among athletes and fans alike. Similar to places in other, more mainstream sports, a handful of towns and cities like Chamonix, France; Olympic Valley, California; and Leadville, Colorado; have become synonymous with the sport and captured the imagination of many.
For me, perhaps the most unique of these special places is the small mining town of Silverton, Colorado. Situated at over 9,000 feet elevation, high in the San Juan Mountains, the historic mining town of Silverton plays host to the annual Hardrock 100, a gathering of some of the grittiest and toughest mountain runners in the world.
I had the opportunity to visit Silverton last week. As it was more than two weeks before the Hardrock 100, which takes place this year on July 14, there were a handful of runners and crews in town but, for the most part, Silverton was in its full-blown summer tourist mode. The narrow-gauge train that chugs up from Durango a few times a day was dropping off tourists to explore the quaint streets and shops of Silverton and the off-highway vehicle rental businesses that dot the area were booming. The tiny mountain town was busy!
As the days count down to the 2023 Hardrock 100, the town and the surrounding areas inevitably fill up with runners. Campers flock to Cunningham Gulch, Red Mountain Pass, and other idyllic spots to acclimate to the altitude and make their final preparations for the race. This year, Chris Twiggs — who is a 16-time Hardrock finisher but is not running the race this time around — is hosting daily exploratory hikes of various sections of the course, to familiarize newcomers to the event while also analyzing the conditions of the course. In addition, the race organization is hosting a series of events affectionately known as “Camp Hardrock” to welcome visitors into the Hardrock family. All the while, the friendly folks of Silverton embrace the camaraderie and anticipation of the event as the energy and excitement grow leading up to race day.
In many ways, Silverton is symbolic of the character and temperament of the runners who descend on the town each July. Stoic, rugged, and steadfast, Silverton represents many of the qualities of the most successful mountain runners as well as the enduring values of the Rocky Mountain West as a whole. All the while, the town and its people provide a glimpse into the old ways of life in a particularly beautiful and, at times, unforgiving part of the country.
As the race draws near and the eyes of the trail running and ultrarunning world are drawn to the San Juans, I hope we can all take a few moments to celebrate the history and values of the town and the event and realize that, as we are brought together each year in this iconic place, there is so much more that unites us than divides us. Silverton, in its own unique way, stands tall as a beacon of connection and hope.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s beer of the week comes from the Avalanche Brewing Company in Silverton, Colorado. Brewed in honor of the Hardrock 100, their Hardrock Strawberry Rhubarb Gosé is a tart and salty sour-style beer, which can quench even the most fervent thirst after a long day in the mountains.
Call for Comments
- Have you been to Silverton? Did you love it?
- Will you be following this year’s Hardrock 100 and, if so, what are your predictions?