[Author’s Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series on unforgettable moments in ultrarunning history. Read our introductory article on this series for a description of what, to me, makes a moment unforgettable.]
I remember it like it was yesterday. Sitting in my living room where I lived at the time in Idaho and looking at my computer screen, I could not believe my eyes. It was July 2008, before ultramarathon races had Twitter coverage or video tracking. And so, naturally, I was following the Hardrock 100 on the rudimentary leaderboard they had linked to their race website. What I saw blew my mind. Twenty-three-year-old New Mexican runner Kyle Skaggs had arrived at the Sherman aid station, mile 72, before it even got dark. I was in awe!
In the weeks and months before the race that year, there were occasional mysterious reports out of Silverton, Colorado, where the event starts and finishes, that Skaggs was there training, covering every inch of the course, and racking up massive training miles in his single-minded pursuit to win Hardrock. Having won the Wasatch Front 100 Mile in a course record time in 2007, Skaggs was certainly the favorite to win that year. However, nobody, except maybe Skaggs himself, thought he would win the race in less than 24 hours and beat the second-place finisher, Colorado’s Scott Jaime, by a whopping six hours. It was a truly virtuoso performance.
In the years since Skaggs’s extraordinary run, the legend of that magical day has taken on an almost mythical status. In addition to his hardcore training, his minimalist approach to running and life inspired others to get out there and stretch themselves in the mountains, sometimes even to the extreme, with little to no backstop. In Skaggs’ case, the 2008 Hardrock 100 would be his last 100-mile race.
A few years ago, while researching another article I wrote about Skaggs’s amazing day, I had the opportunity to spend about an hour on the phone with him hearing about his post-ultra life as an organic farmer and as an athlete. I learned that he still runs, but his life has gone in another direction and he is entirely OK with that.
What Skaggs’s meteoric rise in the sport, which was then immediately followed by an abrupt exit, brought to the forefront of the conversation was the impact of overtraining and the way it could significantly alter the trajectory of a career and a life. From my perspective, Skaggs was a supernova: a once-in-a-generation talent who blasted onto the scene, did extraordinary things, and promptly disappeared.
His story was perhaps the first high-profile example of the profound and long-lasting effects of overtraining. And, while the story has been repeated multiple times since then, this was the first, and in many ways the most impactful. For me, Skaggs’ 2008 Hardrock 100 run was unforgettable because the performance defied the imagination. However, for others, it is unforgettable because of what happened, or didn’t happen, afterward. I happen to believe we can learn much from both.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Sierra Blanca Brewing Company in Moriarty, New Mexico. This little brewery tucked into the New Mexico mountains is known for its fantastic Green Chile Cerveza, brewed with massive amounts of hatch chiles, which are for my money, the best chiles in the world. Green Chile Cerveza is spicy and refreshing and perfect on a hot summer’s day, wherever that may be.
Call for Comments
- Did you follow the 2008 Hardrock 100? What are your memories from it?
- What other iconic past races do you think we should highlight in this series?