For local photographer Justin Talbot, recreation and creativity have always been intertwined. In his new book “The Leadville Runner,” Talbot aims to help others bring an element of adventure to their running.
The book takes runners through the Sawatch Range’s remote drainages and alpine meadows, the dirt roads of the Leadville Mining District, the rocky ridges of the Mosquito and Ten Mile Range and the sandy sage-lined trails of Buena Vista and Granite.
“What our mountains lack in craggy, dramatic skylines is made up for by runable terrain even on top of high ridges,” Talbot writes in the book. “Old mining roads and forest service trails are cut at a mellow grade and most off-trail travel is relatively straightforward compared to other places.”
“The Leadville Runner” is part guidebook, part anthology: a hybrid of photos, maps and written memories.
Talbot’s photography documents the variable weather of the high country, the grit of Leadville’s running community, the juxtaposition of alpine meadows and talus fields spotted with snow.
Though shooting photos in high places isn’t always easy, Talbot has developed systems around his backcountry photography.
Before hitting the trail, Talbot straps his Sony camera and one small lens to his running vest. He runs for miles, usually with companions, stopping at a handful of previously scouted locations for a 10 or 15 minute shoot.
Talbot often asks his subjects, most of whom are locals, to traverse the same ridge or alpine lake multiple times. The photographer freezes time with every click as runners dodge snow patches and leap over boulders.
Each map in “The Leadville Runner” features one main running route with offshoot options to extend or lessen mileage. Icons rate views, crowds, navigation difficulty, ease of travel and seasonality. Mileage and elevation gain and loss are also noted.
For trail-friendly phone use, download free digital maps from Talbot’s website (40minutesfromleadville.com) or scan Talbot’s QR codes, found in the book or on the website, and match with map applications like Avenza or Gaia.
“The Leadville Runner” also features essays by local runners. Smokey Burgess writes about the highs and lows of running with his burro Sweet Pea while Gavin McKenzie recounts his completion of Nolan’s 14, a route that covers 14 14,000 foot peaks in the Sawatch.
Unlike some backcountry enthusiasts, Talbot doesn’t question the decision to share his favorite adventure routes with the world.
The photographer wants locals to explore their backyards. And he wants out-of-staters to explore the endless ridges and meadows beyond the Colorado Trail and the Leadville Trail 100 course.
“There are so many miles of ridge in this county,” Talbot noted. “We are not going to get run off any time soon.”
“The Leadville Runner,” which will hit shops across the Arkansas Valley in late July, is already available for pre-order on Talbot’s website for a discounted price. Talbot will hold a book signing, along with “Leadville Trail 100: History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race” co-author Marge Hickman, at Leadville Outdoors on August 14 at 6 p.m.
“My hope is that this book inspires people to connect and add onto these routes,” Talbot told the Herald. “Or maybe even dream up their own.”