/ / Leadville Race Series: All About the Leadville Trail Marathon and Leadville Heavy Half

Leadville Race Series: All About the Leadville Trail Marathon and Leadville Heavy Half

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Interested in running one of the infamous Leadville races? The Leadville Race Series hosts a number of events from June to August, including the Leadville Trail Marathon and Leadville Heavy Half. Read frequently asked questions about these challenging races to learn if these races are right for you!

How technical are the courses?

Both the Leadville Trail Marathon and Heavy Half are extremely technical. There are less than 3 miles of paved road in each race.

Be prepared for all the elements – dust, loose rocks, snow, wind, mud, snowmelt. You must be very alert and focused no matter which race you run.

What are the aid stations like?

During the race, the aid stations are full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pretzels, M&Ms, chips, bananas, cookies, Coca Cola, Gatorade, water, and more.

The race crew spreads out the aid stations and gets them up to the higher elevation points of the course.

Runners gathering around a table under a tent to eat and drink with mountains in the distance.

How do you prepare for the elevation during the race?

The Leadville Heavy Half has over 3,000 feet of elevation gain and the Leadville Marathon has over 6,000 feet of elevation gain.

To prepare, incorporate hills and climbing into your training. Hike mountains or set a treadmill to ~12% incline and hike for an hour about once or twice a week. Run hill repeats and long runs on rolling hills. These prepare your legs for the big climbs.

How do you acclimate to being at altitude?

The town of Leadville is at 10,151 feet and is the highest town in Colorado. Both the Leadville Marathon and Leadville Heavy Half start at 10,151 feet and have a highest point of 13,208 feet.

If coming from sea level, plan to arrive either within 3 days of the race or about two weeks before the race. Those are your best options for optimal performance if coming from sea level. 

In the days leading up to arriving in Leadville:

  • Drink A LOT of water and always have a water bottle with you
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Eat more calories
  • Speak with your doctor if concerned about the altitude adjustment
Runners passing though a checkpoint of a mountain race on a blue sky day with mountains in the distance.

What is the hardest part of the Leadville Marathon? Heavy Half?

This depends on the person. The hardest part of the Leadville Heavy Half is most likely the climb up Mosquito Pass. 

In terms of the Leadville Marathon, many people agree that hiking back up Ball Mountain for the second time is the most challenging part.

It’s the third of the three climbs during the marathon, so the sun is high in the sky beating down on you, you’re tired from the 18 miles of climbing and running you’ve already done, and being hit with another climb on a dusty trail on tired legs is hard.

It’s really important to conserve your energy for these climbs and to fuel and hydrate consistently during the race.

How much time is spent running versus hiking? 

This also depends on the person.

Many people run anything that is flat or downhill and climb once they feel an incline. This may look different for a mountain trail runner who lives in Colorado and trains primarily on mountains. They may be able to run up more of the inclines and maintain a fast hike up the mountains. 

What’s most important is that your race plan is conservative enough so that you do not expend most of your energy early on because you’ll need it for later in the race.

How difficult is Mosquito Pass?

Mosquito Pass is challenging. It’s a technical, steep, and rocky switchback climb up to 13,208 feet. Mosquito Pass is very exposed and has no coverage. The narrow trail is entirely loose rocks so a runner must be very careful when ascending and descending.

Runner climbing up a steep and rocky trail with snow off to the side and mountains in the distance.

What is the weather like on race day?

Weather can vary from being warm and dry to chilly and windy with threatening storms. It usually rains in the mid to late afternoon and has hailed in the past.

Pack clothes for all weather and come race day, see what you may need.

What is the timeline of race day?

Both races start together and at 8am. The course limit is 8.5 hours.

There are checkpoints near most aid stations so the race crew knows where you are. It’s possible a participant is pulled off the course if they are moving too slowly or at risk for being exposed to inclement weather. 

The finish line is at the start line. Participants get two beer tickets, one meal ticket, and access to massage tents.

Comment Below:

Are you interested in one of the Leadville races? If so, which one?

Do you have other questions about the Leadville Marathon or Heavy Half?

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