SILVERTON With the predawn light barely defining the ridgelines of the surrounding San Juan Mountains, Mindy Campbell leaned up on her toes and gave her husband a kiss.
Jared Campbell, freshly kissed, then stepped to the starting line, ready to defend his 2010 title in the 2011 Hardrock 100 Endurance Run.
With an enthusiastic crowd of crew members, pace runners, family and friends on hand at the Kendall Mountain Recreation Center at 6 a.m. Friday, Campbell and 139 of his closest endurance-running friends embarked on the historic 100-mile test of trail running and hiking.
No, its not so difficult now, Mindy Campbell said just minutes after her husband departed on what is expected to be a 24- to 30-hour race.
This is like a breath of fresh air for him, she said of her husband, who rallied to win the Hardrock 100 last year when it was run in a clockwise direction.
This year, the full field of 140 runners will go counterclockwise Silverton to Lake City to Ouray to Telluride and back to Silverton via 100 miles of San Juan trails.
Jareds not quite as prepared as he was last year ... with work and the house, Mindy Campbell said. But hes ready. He knows the race.
She said the Hardrock is a welcome break from a big project back home in Salt Lake City.
Were remodeling our home, so this is nice for him, said Campbell, who plans to pace her husband the last 10 miles of the course like she did last year.
Pace runners are allowed, even encouraged, for the runners in the Hardrock 100. The pace runners accompany their racers on sections between the 12 checkpoints on the 100-mile course. Pace runners are most common during the dark of night and over the final sections of the course.
Campbell, the defending mens champion, and five-time Hardrock winner Karl Meltzer, also of Utah, broke to the front of the pack immediately after race director Dale Garland sent them off Friday morning.
I feel pretty good, Campbell had said 10 minutes before the start. Yeah, I do feel pretty good.
But, as usual, sleeping the night before the Hardrock 100 was difficult.
Sleep? I got a little, I guess, Campbell said. Its always tough (to sleep) before a race.
Julien Chorier of France also ran up front early along with countryman Daniel Levy.
Dakota Jones, the 20-year-old Durango runner and DHS graduate also ran among the early leaders that included Joseph Grant of Lafayette.
Three-time defending womens champion Diana Finkel also stepped out front early along with Darcy Africa of Boulder, who was second to Finkel last year and fourth overall. Africa broke ahead of Finkel about 15 miles into the race.
Finkel and Africa combined to put two female finishers among the top four in 2010.
This year there are 15 women in the field and 125 men.
The line for the mens room is longer than the line for the womens ... thats a first, said past womens winner Betsy Nye of Truckee, Calif., to the delight of the crowd outside the Kendall Mountain rec center.
The start/finish for the Hardrock was moved to the Kendall Mountain facility this year because of summer renovation work at the Silverton School.
The 2011 winners, who are expected to finish Saturday morning, will add their names and their states to an elite list of Hardrock finishers from the last 20 years.
Over the history of the Hardrock, there have been finishers from every state except seven. And there have been finishers from 11 foreign countries.
Colorado, of course, has the most Hardrock finishers in the history of the event.
Before to the 2011 race, Colorado had 340 finishers.
The state with the second-most Hardrock finishers is New Mexico with 115.
California is next with 106 before this summer.
Utah is next with 74 finishers.
States who never have had a Hardrock finisher are Delaware, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina and South Dakota.
Washington, D.C., sports one Hardrock finisher (2004).
Kansas also has one lone Hardrock finisher (1998).
Great Britain has the most finishers among foreign entries with 16.
Germany is next with 13.
Canada and France have had nine runners complete the 100-mile Hardrock course.
Six Australian runners also are on the list for completing the Hardrock 100.
The last time the race went in the counterclockwise direction in 2009, Meltzer won for the fifth time a Hardrock record. He finished in 24:38:02. Troy Howard of California was second in 26:01:18.
Finkel, the womens winner, was third overall in 2009 in 27:18:24.
For live updated race standings, visit the Hardrock 100 website at hardrock100.com.