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Boulder’s Ryan Smith wins 2019 Leadville 100 with consistent second-half pacing

Boulder’s Ryan Smith won the Leadville 100 trail run on Saturday night thanks to consistent second-half pacing that left his rivals unable to respond. It was the biggest win of his ultrarunning career.

The Boulder-based runner, who came to the United States from the United Kingdom and works full-time a software engineer, was greeted at the finish by his wife and almost 2-year-old daughter. He turned 40 years old this year.

“There’s just a lot of running in the race,” Smith said, referring to the long flat sections along much of the course. “It really favors a flat runner rather than a mountain runner, and I typically do a lot of mountain stuff.”

His win — in 16 hours, 33 minutes, 25 seconds — was far from expected. Smith was not among the pre-race favorites to win, and he wasn’t feeling well leading into the Twin Lakes aid station near the 40-mile mark. But at the turnaround at Winfield, he held his pace steady, averaging around 10 minutes per mile for the rest of the race.

“Always be closing!” his last pacesetter, Clare Gallagher, herself a Leadville 100 winner in 2016, yelled to him after his win. She was referring to Smith’s penchant for strong finishes, and to the casual observer, it might have seemed that Smith was surging. But consistent pacing that late in a race — he averaged 9:58, 9:53, 9:59, 9:54, 10:01, 9:55, 9:54 for all of the second half checkpoints — is remarkably difficult to achieve.

His win came after Jared Hazen, the runner-up to this year’s Western States 100, set out a blistering early pace, intent on breaking the course record of 15:42 set by Matt Carpenter in 2005. Late Saturday morning, while racing back toward Twin Lakes, he told a Denver Post reporter along the trail that he had dropped out and “needed to get to an aid station.” He had turned around before the Winfield aid station — the halfway point of the course.

The Leadville is infamous for seducing runners into racing too hard too early, with flat fields and trails before turning into a punishing climb to 12,600 feet over Hope Pass.

For the women, Magdalena Boulet of Oakland, Calif., finished in 20:18:07 in her first Leadville 100. Boulet, who won her first-ever 100-miler in 2015 at Western States and was a U.S. Olympic marathoner in 2008, said she was inspired to run at Leadville after crewing for her boss at GU Energy Labs a few years ago. She had acclimatized at altitude for only two weeks before Saturday’s run. Boulder’s Cat Bradley was the second woman to cross the finish line in 20:45:48.

(08/18/2019) ⚡AMP
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Leadville Trail 100 Run

Leadville Trail 100 Run

The legendary “Race Across The Sky” 100-mile run is where it all started back in 1983. This is it. The race where legends are created and limits are tested. One hundred miles of extreme Colorado Rockies terrain — from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet. You will give the mountain respect, and earn respect from all. ...

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