Over 2,000 athletes from 50 states and 15 countries are attempting to climb 100,000 feet of elevation this summer as part of the Leadville Race Series (LRS) 100,000 FT Challenge.

The summer-long virtual event challenges runners and bikers to reach new heights in 2020, despite the cancellation of LRS’ races. The challenge is also a fundraiser for Lake County School District’s summer meal distribution program.

Solo and relay team participants complete segments of the challenge at their own pace, entering the net elevation gain and time of each workout online. LRS is also offering a 200,000 FT Challenge for those who wish to gain 100,000 feet by foot and 100,000 feet by pedal.

“When we had to make the unfortunate decision to cancel our 2020 season, we knew we needed to find a way to continue creating impact in the Lake County community. Our athletes were also grappling with the loss of the races,” Life Time Marketing Director of Off-Road Events Michelle Duffy told the Herald. “The Leadville 100,000 FT Challenge is a challenge that not everyone is sure they can complete but is giving them something to hold onto and stay motivated by.”

From urban dwellers to residents of the mountains, gaining 100,000 feet in elevation over the course of a summer looks different for everyone.

For Leadville local Mitch Dulleck, who has climbed about 65,000 feet since the challenge began in mid-June, 14,000 foot peaks and high altitude mountain passes are accessible from his doorstep.

“My training has definitely changed this summer since this is a vertical gain challenge,” Dulleck explained. “I have been doing runs that are more climbing orientated instead of distance oriented.”

For others who live in the flatlands, the challenge has sparked creativity.

Indiana resident David Curin completed the challenge in two weeks after creating a 17% incline on his treadmill. Liz Kniffen ran up and down a small ski hill in Minnesota and Jack Brush rode across a bridge in Florida 240 times in one day. New York City resident Terence Gerchberg ran 21 flights of stairs, 10 time per day, until he finished the challenge.

The Leadville 100,000 FT Challenge Facebook group has become an active forum for participants to share workout photos, tips and words of encouragement.

About 80 individuals and 35 relay teams have finished the challenge to date. And as of mid-July, the challenge had raised $20,000 in direct donations to the Leadville Trail 100 Foundation. The amount of money going to Lake County School District will be determined after the challenge ends in mid-August.

“School lunch programs are important to Life Time, as our organization’s nonprofit, the Life Time Foundation, focuses solely on impacting school lunch programs across the country,” Duffy said.

The challenge will conclude on August 15 for bikers and August 22 for runners — finishers will receive a belt buckle and custom t-shirt.

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