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The 100-mile out-and-back course is a rugged adventure that sends runners over rock-riddled trails, through a thigh-deep stream and up embankments so steep they nearly have to crawl. The lowest point of the course is 9,200 feet and the highest is Hope Pass, which is more than two miles above sea level.

Oh, and at night, the runners shuffle along the trail by the beam of a headlamp, which casts eerie shadows that makes the weary runners almost see things in the dark.

The race was the invention of Ken Chlouber, a spirited marathoner who wanted to bring visitors to the mining town during a tough economic time.

His thought? If runners have to race 100 miles, they’ll for sure stay overnight and spend money.

All the weary souls who get their soles over the finish line receive a belt buckle the size of a serving platter. That’s the motivation - plain and simple.

Finkbeiner, a landscape contractor by trade, proudly displays all of his buckles in a glass case in his living room.

Not one buckle has come easy. Far from it, especially around mile 80, where he always seems to throw up whatever he has eaten. That’s usually a steady intake of grilled cheese sandwiches and energy gels.

Recently, Leadville added pancakes to the aid station around mile 87. He drowns them in syrup, giving him just the sugar surge he needs.

“Those have really made a huge difference,” said Finkbeiner, who usually goes through two pairs of shoes and countless socks during the race.

And while he’s now run more than 3,000 miles along the course, he has never encountered anything bigger than a squirrel. No mountain lions, elk, bears or coyotes have come across his path - that he is aware of anyway.

As for what he thinks about on those long wilderness treks, well, that’s simple. Not falling - asleep or over a rock.

“People always think I must get bored,” Finkbeiner said. “But you really do watch every step.

“I’ve been fortunate not to have anything to keep me from finishing.”