The lottery loser’s answer to running the Hardrock 100
Every December, 152 ultrarunners receive a piece of magnificent news: they’ve been accepted by lottery into one of the world’s toughest, most prestigious and sought-after ultramarathons—the Hardrock 100 in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. It’s a rugged course with more than 33,000 feet of elevation gain, all at high altitude.
As the race’s reputation and popularity have exploded in recent years, though, the number of lottery-losing runners has also grown. In the lottery for the 2016 race, 1,397 runners were denied entry.
So what’s a disappointed, wannabe Hardrocker to do?
Several years ago, I got wind of something called “Softrock”—an affectionately used term for running and hiking the 100-mile course on your own, typically over 3-4 days. It’s possible to camp out or stay in hotels in the mountain towns of Telluride and Ouray along the way. Softrock is not a race, nor even an unofficial event; it’s simply the informal name for an adventure that increasing numbers of runners are tackling in lieu of (or sometimes in addition to!) running Hardrock itself.
Two summers ago, a group of friends and I ventured out for our own Softrock adventure. Here are a few highlights from our journey: