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The Leadville Race Series boasts a rich legacy spanning over 40 years, but the roots of this story extend beyond just the last several decades. The town of Leadville holds a significant place in history, drawing visitors for centuries due to its distinctive character and unique historical events. With a past that encompasses both periods of prosperity and decline, the narrative of Leadville’s history is a compelling and captivating journey that merits sharing for generations to come.

Mining Days

The town of Leadville, Colorado, was founded in 1877 during the Colorado Silver Boom, which saw a massive influx of prospectors seeking to strike it rich in the mines that dotted the area. The town was named after the lead deposits that were discovered in the area, but it was the discovery of silver in 1878 that truly put Leadville on the map. 

At its peak, the town boasted a population of more than 30,000 and was one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.The mining industry played a central role in Leadville’s early development, and the town was home to some of the richest silver mines in the world. The two largest mines, the Matchless Mine and the Little Jonny Mine, produced millions of dollars worth of silver each year, and their owners became some of the wealthiest people in the world. However, the boom times were not to last.


By the early 20th century, Leadville was in decline. The closure of the Climax Mine in the 1980s was a particularly devastating blow, leaving the town struggling to find a new identity and source of income. The town’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to the highest in the country and all of the challenges associated began to take its toll on the community. With nearly the entire town out of work, things were grim in the once-booming town of Leadville. The town struggled to find an identity and source of income for its residents. 

The “Race Across the Sky” 

Ken Chlouber, a local miner and businessman who was determined to put Leadville back on the map had an idea. He thought that tourism would be the key to Leadville’s revival, and he knew that visitors needed to stay overnight to have an economic impact. In 1983, Chlouber partnered with Merilee Maupin, and founded the Leadville Trail 100 Run, a grueling 100-mile ultramarathon that would take runners through the rugged mountain terrain surrounding the town. If they were going to run 100 miles, they sure would stay overnight! The race was an immediate success, attracting ultrarunners from around the world and bringing much-needed attention to Leadville.

Encouraged by the success of the Leadville Trail 100 Run, the duo went on to found the Leadville Race Series, which now includes a variety of races throughout the year, including the Silver Rush 50, the Leadville Trail Marathon & Heavy Half and the Leadville Stage Race. The Leadville Race Series has become one of the most popular and prestigious endurance race series in the world, attracting thousands of athletes and spectators to Leadville each year.

Modern Day

Today, Leadville is a thriving town with a rich history and a bright future. Although the mining industry has declined, the town’s history as a mining boomtown is still evident in its architecture and landmarks, including the Tabor Opera House, the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Matchless Mine. 

In addition to the Leadville Race Series, the town is also home to a number of other outdoor recreation opportunities, including skiing, fatbiking, fishing, and hiking. Thanks to the vision and determination of Ken Chlouber and Merilee Maupin and others like them, Leadville has become synonymous with endurance sports and the human spirit of perseverance and determination.

Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation

In 2002, Ken & Merilee created the Leadville Legacy Foundation as a nonprofit foundation to address the ever-increasing needs of the Leadville and Lake County communities. The Legacy Foundation thrives through generous contributions from individuals and corporations with every dollar going directly to meet the needs of the community.

The Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Scholarship Program was started in 2009. Every May, the Legacy awards a $2,000 scholarship to all graduating Lake County High School seniors who are going forward with some form of higher education. Head to the website to find out more about the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation and consider making a donation or racing as an official charity rider or runner.

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