The Geography Of Hope

AJWs Taproom[Editor’s Note: We normally publish AJW’s Taproom on Fridays, but we’re making his article available one day early because we think his message might be especially inspiring to this weekend’s racers, as well as their crews, pacers, loved ones, and fans.]

There is something about the Hardrock 100 that inspires in me a deep sense of hope and optimism. In fact, over the past few years I have come to believe, more and more, that ultramarathon running itself inspires hope, often in times of great divisiveness and fear. Hardrock, in particular, seems to embody optimism and positivity in ways that few other institutions do.

The Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run began as a tribute to the 19th century hardscrabble miners of the San Juan Mountains. These hardy men scraped out an existence in one of the most beautiful and often harsh environments in the nation. They did so with grit and persistence and, I dare say, more than a healthy dose of hope that one day they might strike it rich in the remote mountains of Colorado.

Tomorrow morning, 152 runners, many of whom have waited years for the opportunity to run the Hardrock 100, will set off from the small town of Silverton in an attempt to cover the 100-mile course in under 48 hours. Along the way they will pass over 14,000 feet once and 13,000 feet seven other times. They will face lung-stretching climbs and quad-busting descents. They may struggle with altitude and perhaps have to dodge a few lightning storms. Along the way, it is my hope that they remain filled with the hope and optimism that characterizes much of which I personally love about ultra marathon running.

A little more than halfway through the race, after a heinous 5,000-foot descent, the runners will emerge into the small town of Ouray, Colorado. Here they will likely encounter nothing short of a full-blown mountain-running festival as literally hundreds of people, some crews and pacers and many simple spectators, will be gathered to feed off the joy of the Hardrock 100. From Ouray, the low point on the course, the runners will then begin a long, grinding run up Camp Bird Road on their way to the summit of Virginius Pass. Several hours later, assuming their wits remain intact, more than half of the 152 starters will arrive back in Silverton and kiss the rock.

Certainly, there will be times during this two-day journey that the runners will feel much more despair than hope. In these times of pain and accumulated fatigue it is perhaps most important to remember the hope and optimism that characterized the 19th century hardrock miners. Life was undoubtedly not easy for them and yet many persisted in the face of hardship and exhaustion and, over the years, many of the most successful Hardrock runners have done the same. With a little luck and a persistent positive attitude, the body can do extraordinary things. On Friday, Saturday, and part of Sunday, I am thrilled to share in the joy, passion, and, indeed, hope that is the Hardrock 100.

Bottoms up!

 AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes, appropriately, from Silverton, Colorado. Avalanche Brewing Company is a cozy little brewpub in the center of tow that brews four fantastic beers. On a cool, rainy evening recently I had the chance to enjoy their award-winning porter, Pride of the West Porter. This is one of those rare dark brews that is not heavy. In fact, it has a crispness that, coupled with the chocolatey aftertaste, makes this a wonderfully drinkable beer. If you’re in Silverton this weekend, be sure to stop buy to grab a pint or two.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

What about the Hardrock 100 inspires hope in you?