Coloradoan outdistances top rival to win again in her home state.
Written by: Meghan M. Hicks
At last year’s Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run, Colorado’s Diana Finkel led the entire race–women AND men–for an astounding 45 miles. In the race’s final miles, however, she experienced debilitating leg cramps and relinquished her lead to eventually finish second overall, winning the women’s race in the progress. Afterward, she nearly lost her life to kidney failure. Fortunately for Finkel, she recovered fully in the weeks following the race, had a successful season of training, and arrived to the start of this year’s edition of Hardrock 100 fit, ferocious, and seeking revenge on the course that nearly killed her.
When this year’s edition of the Hardrock 100 began at 6 AM on Friday morning in Silverton, Colorado, Finkel and last year’s women’s runner-up, Darcy Africa of Colorado, strode smoothly up the trail with each other, beginning a battle that would last for the next 102 miles, 13 mountain passes, 30,000 feet of climbing, a few thunderstorms, and almost 30 hours.
In the end, Finkel crossed the line as the women’s winner, placing fifth overall in 29:27 to capture her fourth straight Hardrock 100. She kissed the finish line’s hardrock, a boulder painted with the race’s logo and a reminder of the region’s longstanding mining history, then lapsed into a series of emotional hugs with her crew, which included her husband and parents. “A huge weight has been lifted,” Finkel said shortly after finishing.
Nineteen minutes later, Africa ran down the finishing stretch hand-in-hand with her daughter Sophia, possessing the same fluid gait she ran with off the starting line. When told that she’d broken the 30-hour mark with plenty of time to spare, she was all smiles. Africa and Finkel hugged, then stood together in quiet conversation.
Finkel and Africa ran the first 12 or so miles with each other before Finkel took a wrong turn at the same spot as men’s winner Julien Chorier. She corrected her time-consuming error and passed through the mile 15 aid station only seven minutes back from Africa. Africa ran with this lead for almost 30 miles. At the mile 42 aid station, Finkel and Africa arrived within minutes of each other, and the crowd buzzed with cheers and energy for the way they were attacking the brutal course.
Finkel methodically built a lead over Africa that extended to one hour and 17 minutes at mile 81. Africa never gave up, though, giving it her all in the final 20 miles. At the finish line, Africa said, “I was pushing hard, so hard. I had my music up and I was going.”
The numbers don’t disagree: Africa chewed up all but 19 minutes of Finkel’s lead between mile 81 and the finish. It seems that she only ran out of real estate to get the job done.
Though the 2011 Hardrock 100 was a duel of two women, there were other key players on course. California’s Betsy Nye rounded out the top three women with a 39:17 finish. She’s no stranger to the Hardrock 100: this year’s finish marks her 16th.
Spain’s Nerea Martinez charged hard for the first 28 miles, staying within spitting distance of either Finkel or Africa. Sometime after the 28 mile aid station, Martinez lost the course. Adam Chase, the manager for Salomon’s running team, which sponsors Martinez, said, “She was lost for three hours after the aid station, but she eventually found her way back.” Martinez proceeded to the 42 mile aid station before dropping from the race.
Meghan M. Hicks is a Park City, Utah-based writer and trail runner. Visit her website at meghanmhicks.com.