With 99 miles completed in the Leadville Trail 100, the act of running became an act of will.
Tim Gore plodded east on Sixth Street in Leadville, moving toward the morning sun, toward the finish line. Gore, 48, works as director of community relations at Springs Rescue Mission. He set a goal to complete the Leadville race and raise money for the mission's addiction recovery program.
He chose a team of pacers and strategists, those who would run with him for the last 50 miles and others who'd create and execute a plan to provide support along the way. He named the effort 100 Miles With a Mission, and off they went to Leadville for the event's 4 a.m. start on Saturday, Aug. 22.
Twenty-nine hours later he returned to the Leadville city limits, his running friend and confidant Natascha Leonardo coaxing him along. Awaiting Gore's arrival, his teammates discussed the mental condition required to keep moving when his survival instincts told him to stop.
One hundred miles. How did he do it?
Months before he trotted off into the crisp morning air with 750 other runners, Gore would tell anyone willing to listen, "I have to finish this." Over a course that included 18,000 feet of painful vertical gain and an elapsed time that included two Rocky Mountain sunrises, he never took his eyes off the ball. He thought of the homeless men at Springs Rescue Mission struggling to recover from alcoholism and drug addiction.
"The suffering that I went through doesn't come close to one day of their lives, or one hour of their lives, struggling with everything that is pulling them to do the thing that is going to hurt them the most," Gore says. "I was thinking about those guys. I had to keep moving."
Across Colorado Springs, his friends in the nonprofit community and at City Hall followed his progress online. The men at the mission were aware of the events, too. They broke into applause upon his return.
"That was overwhelming," Gore says. "But that is what made this journey so epic — so many people were involved."
Gore had hoped to raise $100,000. By last week, the total collected was close to $20,000, and he still was thrilled. (Anyone who would like to contribute is invited to check out springsrescuemission.org/sponsor-tim.)
He picked up the pace a little over the final mile, though everything hurt and his mind had turned to mush. It didn't help that he had slept only two hours the night before the race.
But his team, residents of the Pikes Peak region — some of whom also work at the mission, plus close friends and community leaders — gathered around him. Dressed in their red team shirts, they spread across the street and marched into downtown Leadville. The mountains they had crisscrossed formed a backdrop that contained their personal stories from the adventure. In 30 hours, they had become a family. That's the way it is in ultrarunning.
"By the end, we all knew each other at a deeper level," Gore says. "You don't know what friendship is until another grown man has changed your wet socks."
Gore's friend Alicia Pino volunteered to take the controls early in the process and figured out how to deliver food and drink, fresh clothing, familiar smiling faces and encouragement to their runner at several aid stations. Days after the finish, the team's work still resonated with Gore, a community guy who was homeless for much of his youth.
"They poured their heart out for 30 hours, all their time and energy," he says. "And they did that so that I could cross the finish line. That's the thought that keeps banging away at me."
"They" were Jill Gaebler, Charlie Dokmo, Ben Robb and 4-year-old son Jude, Christina Wilson, Molly Mazel, Hillary Magnuson, Brittany Hubble, Stu Davis, Allie McLaughlin, Kevin and Natascha Leonardo, and Pino.
"I really think this effort by Tim and this team is volunteerism at its best," says Dokmo, Gore's boss at Springs Rescue Mission.
A half-mile from the finish, they topped the final hill and Gore could see the famous red carpet that race organizers roll out for the runners. "I remember every excruciating, painful, numbing, beautiful step," he says.
Gore had energized his team, whose spirit infused his legs with energy.He broke into a run, and they finished their 100 Miles With a Mission.