When the Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run was canceled for 2019, the ultra-marathon organizers knew and feared the economic impact it would have on Silverton, the small town in the heart of the San Juan Mountains where the race begins and ends.
From its humble beginnings in 1992, the Hardrock 100 has become an international icon in the running community, drawing thousands of hopeful entrants into its lottery each year who hope to conquer 100.5 miles with 66,100 feet of elevation change on a course that averages 11,000 feet of elevation and summits 14,048-foot Handies Peak.
Only 145 runners are selected for the race, but the event brings hundreds more to Silverton, with crew members, sponsors, volunteers and media members from around the globe.
The decision was made June 10 to cancel this year’s race scheduled for July 19-21. It was only the third time in the race’s history that it was canceled and the first time since 2002. With a heavy year of snow, trails damaged by multiple avalanches and the threat of high water crossings, run director Dale Garland and his team knew it would not be safe to host the run.
“If anybody has traveled through Silverton and Ouray, you know that any time you have an event of any stature that pulls out, it has a ripple effect on the community,” Garland said. “Over the years, we’ve monitored that. We’ve asked the merchants and runners how much is spent. Their crews’ average expenditure is $2,500 per runner, so that means we’ve basically got, if you do the math, around a $378,000 economic impact on the communities, and primarily Silverton because that’s where it’s headquartered.
“So, when we announced that, the economic consideration was part of the calculus for us in our consideration. But, again, safety being first, we decided to make the decision we did.”
A year after the 416 Fire had a big economic impact on Durango and Silverton, many in the outdoor community are eager to find ways to help mitigate the financial losses for the Silverton economy. In May, Silverton Area Chamber of Commerce Director DeAnne Gallegos told The Durango Herald that the Hardrock 100 contributed roughly $1 million to the local economy.
Though there is no race this year, many athletes from the U.S. and abroad have still migrated to Silverton for Camp Hardrock festivities. At every event, donations are being accepted and donated to the Hardrock 100, and Garland and the organizing committee will decide how to distribute the funds.
Hardrock’s corporate sponsors Altra shoes, GU Energy Labs, Smartwool and Ultimate Direction are all giving back, too.
From 6 to 8 p.m. today, Brown’s Sport Shoe in downtown Durango will have a demo run hosted by Altra in support of Hardrock. Garland said the company is also selling Hardrock logo gaiters and donating the proceeds of sales to Hardrock.
Smartwool donated all of its 2019 Hardrock shirts. GU Energy Labs is also donating a percentage of sales of its Roctane product, which was developed by owner Bill Vaughn specifically for his daughter Laura when she won the Hardrock 100 in 1997.
Ultimate Direction has its own line of Hardrock 100-inspired merchandise, including its Hardrocker Vest, Hardroller portable carry case and a 25-year anniversary shirt. The company is donating 10% of sales on its Hardrock merchandise.
“It’s a community, not just an event, and we are very clear we want to be a part of it,” said Ultimate Direction Brand Vice President Buzz Burrell in an email to the Herald. “Not only do we support the race, but we rent a house for the week and bring our entire staff to participate. When the race was canceled, we had to cancel the house – we felt bad about that economic impact – so the decision to donate 10% of merchandise sales came quick and was easy.
“We immediately knew we wanted to donate, but to what? We thought of (search and rescue) and looked into various groups but realized the race committee knows where this should go, so let them decide. (Garland) agreed to figure out the best recipients, and we trust him.”
Hardrock athletes have also done their part. Last Sunday, Anna Frost, François D’haene and Dakota Jones joined Garland at Durango Outdoor Exchange for a group run and question-and-answer session for the community in which funds were raised. Frost, an Ultimate Direction athlete, has been happy to see her sponsor give back, too.
“What better way to give back to the community than to sell those Hardrock products and give back. They’re giving out some of the products at the events, too. They’ve done a great job,” said Frost, a two-time Hardrock winner.
Garland said all the money raised by corporate partners and at Camp Hardrock events will go into a community fund, and the philanthropy arm of the Hardrock 100 board will decide where the money will be directed, whether it be to community businesses or organizations such as search and rescue.
“I’m really pleased by the response of our corporate sponsors. It shows a lot of goodwill and responsibility when they say, ‘No, we want to give something back,’” Garland said. “I think they feel very, very vested in what we’re doing, the event and the communities in which we run.”