Iconic Leadville trail races canceled due to COVID-19

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Lake County commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to cancel event permits through September for gatherings of more than 250 people because of COVID-19, causing the cancellation of an iconic series of trail races that have made Leadville an international destination for endurance athletes for decades.

The Leadville Trail 100-mile race, dubbed “The Race Across the Sky,” put the former mining town on the map in the 1980s when it was in danger of becoming a ghost town. Its elevation ranges from 9,200 feet to 12,600 feet with more than 15,000 feet of climbing, making it a coveted event for the world’s endurance athletes. That race and the spinoff events it has spawned — the Leadville Trail Marathon and half marathon, the Leadville 10K and the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race that were to unfold over the summer — all are canceled.

Race organizers posted a letter to entrants on Wednesday, saying they are “nothing short of devastated for our participants” who have trained for the grueling high-altitude series, but they were left with no choice.

“Here is our reality: Leadville’s hospital and medical resources are limited and cannot assume the risk of widespread outbreak,” the letter said. “Our participants come from 40 countries and 50 states. We can’t control the precautions taken in communities outside of our own, and that comes with risk. Colorado has placed capacities on event gatherings that would greatly impact our event starting lines. It is undetermined when these will be lifted, but we’re told it will not be this summer.”

Leadville is highly dependent on tourism, so the cancellation of these races will be a difficult blow to the economy.

“Leadville and Lake County cherish the many special events and races we traditionally host here each summer, and appreciate the thousands of athletes and their families, tourists, and visitors who participate and support our community,” Lake County Commissioner Kayla Marcella said in a county news release. “This was an incredibly difficult decision for all involved. We will miss the energy and support from our marquee events this year, and look forward to summer 2021 when we can safely welcome them back to our community.”

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