What is it? A 50-mile trail run in the San Juan Mountains of south-central Colorado. Chip Lee devised the route to be one of the most beautiful loops you'll ever do, replete with all those adventurous components that go along with a long day in the high mountains: stream crossings; ridge running; mega-altitude; huge views; heat and/or rain, sleet, and snow; route finding; and, of course, potentially life-threatening thunderstorms.
When is it? The actual race varies each year, but we try to keep it as close to the actual summer solstice as possible. Those who are registered to run will sign in on Friday the day before, pick up a food voucher and leave drop bags in the marked piles. Then runners will again check in the morning of the race. The race starts at 5 am on Saturday. The last official finisher must cross the finish line before 9:00 pm! The awards and raffle breakfast (free for everyone) are held on Sunday at 8:30 am in the park. This last hang-out is always a good time; don't miss it!
Is the run a benefit? Yes! All proceeds go to the Lake City Volunteer EMTs. You can make contributions by buying SJS50 merchandise at both signup and EMT t-shirts and hats at the breakfast. This is a good move for your karma in general, as these folks could end up carrying you out; you never know.
What's the topography like? More scenic than any other run but The Hardrock 100, and equally as difficult—just a whole lot shorter. There are three climbs: #1 is almost 4,500’ up Alpine Gulch; #2 is 4,000’ up past the old ghost town of Carson and onto the continental Divide; and #3 comes at mile 41 and is only about 2,000’. The footing is, for the most part, very good, and the course is marked appropriately—not too much, not too little, just enough so that alert runners shouldn’t have any problems. However, note that each year we have had people blow through marked turns and get themselves well off the trail. Our rules state that the runner must return to the spot where s/he last left the trail and continue from there. The ’00 race saw some DQs because of runners not returning to the trail. Please study the map, carry one with you, and DO NOT put your head down and simply follow the folks in front of you. Do remember that, when 500 flags go up on a 50 mile course in the very high mountains, some are bound to go down in front of elk, marmots, jeepers, and hikers.
Do I have to qualify? Yes. On the entry form, you must list a completed trail ultra. This is for safety's sake, as well as to make reasonably sure that you'll have a shot at making the cut-offs along the course. By trail ultra, we mean trail runs greater than marathon length, with the exception of the Pikes Peak Marathon, which we do accept as a qualifier. See the "Rules" page for cut-off times.
Will I get lost or die? You may get off trail, but if you've studied the map and have a reasonably good sense of direction, you probably won't die. If you do find yourself in an unmarked wilderness, do not just keep forging ahead. Go Back! Even if it means going back uphill, you should go back to where you last knew where you were. And remember to check in and out of those aid stations, as well as to notify us tout de suite if you drop out; otherwise, we'll mount a huge search and rescue and then give you the bill. To avoid getting such a bill, it is a very wise idea to buy a "Hiker's Certificate" or COSAR card either before the event or at one of the sporting stores in Lake City when you get to town. The Certificate is like a National Forest Service bond that will help pay for your rescue. Good news: it's only a couple of bucks.
By the way, the race does not pick up anyone's emergency costs, such as medical. Someone has already tried this, thank you very much. Runners in this event have decided to pay good money to put themselves under some serious duress-even to risk life and limb in the face of dangerous situations, which include animals and very serious weather.
What about that weather? All of our literature warns you to be very careful because, up there on the Divide, there are some "gnarly" storms that have nearly vaporized past entrants. Be careful if things get electric and be ready to run for it; forget your time, the run; forget everything except for getting down off the high ridges. Think about it when you 1) sign the waiver, and 2) are up there listening to thunder in the distance. And be prepared to cross numerous snowfields. The snow storm on the Divide in 2009 left too many runners wearing trash bag couture. Please carry enough gear. A twisted ankle or worse could leave you immobile for hours up there. Could you stay warm and dry if you had to stop?
What kind of people enter this thing? You should have run tons of distance and elevation, feel comfortable and acclimated in the high mountains, and know how to get yourself out of bad places, like storms, the very big kind with bad electricity. This means that you might have to leave the marked course, and this means route-finding and keeping your act together under duress. We put on a well-organized run so that you'll have a great weekend, but we do not hold your hand, and there is in effect at this race the #1 rule in ultras: No Whining At Any Time. Read Emerson's "Self Reliance" again before you come.
How long does it usually take most runners to complete? Middle of the pack is 13 hours. Be aware that there is a final 16-hour cut off at the finish (9 pm). There have been several heartbreaks at 9:01 p.m.!
What kinds of awards are there? Awards are broken down into three categories: top three places in men and women, age group awards, and finisher awards for specific times. Awards ceremony is at 8:30 Sunday morning in Town Park. The Lake City Friends of EMTs serve a super breakfast for runners, their families and our volunteers.
- Sub 8 hours, the Freak of Nature award
- Sub 10 hours, the Mutant award
- Sub 12 hours, the Cannibal award
- Sub 16 hours (the cut off at the finish), the Survivor award
Also, loads of gear & goodies will be raffled off! Don't miss it!