“The planning is complete and all that remains is to wait for the starting time of Leadville’s 100-mile Ultra Run that will begin at 5 a.m. Sunday in front of the courthouse.”
That article previewing the first running of the “Race Across the Sky” appeared in the Thursday, Aug. 25, 1983, Herald Democrat, some 30 years ago.
The race, which was being sponsored locally by the High Altitude Fitness Council and with Ken Chlouber in charge of planning, also was being coordinated by Jim Butera, president of the Colorado Ultra Club.
For the first race, a tent on the courthouse lawn was manned by two county commissioners, Carl Miller and Pat Wadsworth, along with the Leadville Jaycees under the direction of Mark Jackson. The third commissioner, Chlouber, was entered in the race.
Runners were to get medical checks at St. Vincent Hospital under the direction of Dr. John Perna and then attend a meeting at the Sixth Street Gym for a briefing of the trail. Five checkpoints or aid stations were set up along the trail: Lady of the Lake Campground at Turquoise Lake, the fish hatchery, Half Moon, Twin Lakes and Winfield.
To win a belt buckle, all racers would have to finish by 11 a.m. Sunday, 30 hours after the start.
According to the Herald, this was the first ultra run featured in Colorado and just the fourth ever in the United States.
The racers included three from Leadville: Jim Feistner and Dick Webster planned to run along with Chlouber.
In all, 45 people started the run, including one woman who had completed an ultra in California.
Only ten finished. They ranged from Skip Hamilton, of Aspen, with a winning time of 20 hours, 11:18 minutes, to Brent Weigner, of Cheyenne, Wyo., whose time was not listed in the newspaper. Leadville’s Webster finished in sixth place.
After the race, Hamilton said, “As I was running up Hope Pass, I was thinking, ‘Who was the guy who designed this trail?’ After I got to the top of Hope Pass, I said to myself it would have to get better. It was worse.”
He then thanked the people of Leadville for their support.
The general consensus of the runners was that the altitude didn’t bother them, but it did slow them down. One, whose race ended at the first checkpoint, said he had had beer and eggs for breakfast.
Those attending the checkpoints generally felt the runners did not drink enough water.
Webster, the lone finisher from Leadville, said his training had consisted of running up to the top of Mosquito Pass and back. Mosquito Pass is 13,100 feet while Hope Pass is 12,600 feet.
“When you train like that, you have no breathing difficulties,” he said.
He said his secret to feeling good after the race is in not pushing himself.
“The Ultra Run isn’t like other races where you go out for a burst of special effort to win. The main thing about the Ultra is that you have to listen to your body. If you push too hard, you just don’t finish.”