The Western States, Hardrock, and Leadville 100 Milers, 14 Years Later

AJW’s reflections on the changes through the years at three iconic American ultramarathons.

By on August 25, 2023 | Comments

AJW's TaproomFourteen years ago, during the summer of 2009, I had the good fortune to run three of North America’s most iconic 100-mile races. With my family by my side, we traveled to the Western States 100Hardrock 100, and Leadville 100 Mile and enjoyed the splendor of these three outstanding events over the course of 11 weeks. For all five of us, it was one of the best family summers of our lives.

This year, as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to travel to each one of these races again, this time as a volunteer and crew member. In many ways, all three events held the same magic and maintained the same feel as they did 14 years ago but, as one might expect, some things had changed.

AJW River Crossing

The author racing the Western States 100 in 2009. Photo: Glenn Tachiyama

The Western States 100, the granddaddy of them all, was already immensely popular back in 2009. However, when I compare what I saw in 2009 to what I saw this past year, one thing stands out. There has been a significant increase in the number of spectators, sponsors, and media members attending the event.

One of my responsibilities at this year’s Western States was to work alongside my good friend Scott Wolfe, monitoring parking at Robinson Flat, the mile 30 aid station of the race. It was remarkable to see the number of sponsor vehicles and media teams that descended on the racecourse. Additionally, it seemed like the number of people who had driven up to the aid station to simply watch the race was massive. I, for one, love to see the increased interest in the race and look forward to being part of the volunteer team that works to manage this growth in the years to come.

2023 Western States 100 - media at finish line

Media assemble to wait for the winners at the finish line of the 2023 Western States 100. Photo: Garth McGimpsey

At the Hardrock 100, I was privileged to be part of the Run Steep Get High media team that was video streaming the race live from the Silverton High School gym. Over the course of 48 hours, we worked to bring the event to people live via YouTube. It was a new experience for all of us and one which helped to share the event with the ultra world.

When I compare the 2009 event to this past year the one thing that stood out is how much of a global event it had become. While there was the occasional international runner in the event a decade and a half ago, this year the race was populated by runners from over a dozen countries, something I suspect will continue to increase as the reach of the race expands.

Finally, for my return to the Leadville 100 Mile, I was part of a team of coaches from CTS providing support to runners at Twin Lakes, a key aid station at miles 37 and 62. Throughout the day and into the night, we connected with dozens of runners as well as their crews and pacers.

What struck me about so many of these interactions was how many people were running Leadville as their first ever 100-mile race. Back in 2009, I would guess that very few people ran this event as their first 100 miler. This year, at least in my experience, it seemed that more than half were doing so.

Jacquie Mannhard - 2023 Leadville 100 Mile women's winner

Jacquie Mannhard celebrates winning the 2023 Leadville 100 Mile. Photo: Life Time

It was wonderful for me to revisit the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, and Leadville 100 Mile all in one summer. The opportunity to see the vibrancy of the trail and ultra community close up was inspiring for me and gave me renewed hope for the future, even all these years later.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Eddyline Brewery logoThis week’s beer of the week comes from Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista, Colorado, just down the road from Leadville. The Boater Beer Pilsner is a quintessential summer beer, perfect for a day on the river or in the mountains. Light and crispy and weighing in at a modest 4.5% ABV, Boater Beer is a nice, all-purpose beer for any occasion.

Call for Comments

Is there a race that you’ve been going to for a lot years, and what changes have you noticed take place?

Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.