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Black Hills 100

28-Jun-2019 Sturgis, South Dakota, USA


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Mountains Race Race Terrain
161KM / 100Miles
3 Days - 250 Runners

Alternate Distances: 80KM/50M 50KM/31M 30KM/18M

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Expert  

Entry From $225 USD


First and foremost, be aware that this course is probably harder than you think it is. Being located at relatively low elevation in South Dakota tends to create the impression that the course can’t be that difficult. The most common quote heard at the finish line of the inaugural race was “that was way harder than I thought it would be”.

The finish rates for the 100-mile race in our first two years were 35% and 40%. Granted, many DNFs can be attributed to weather conditions (a severe thunderstorm in 2011, high temps in 2012), but the course took its toll too. Several runners described it as harder than Leadville. We won’t make that claim ourselves, but we do know that the Black Hills 100 is not easy.

On paper, Black Hills actually has slightly more elevation gain than Leadville, although Leadville takes place at about double the altitude. Whereas much of the elevation gain at other difficult 100s such as Leadville and Bighorn occurs in a few big climbs, the gain at Black Hills is accumulated in a bunch of small chunks that eventually take their toll. To make a boxing analogy, it’s like taking a few big uppercuts to the chin versus a bunch of body shots. Both will eventually put you on the mat if you’re not prepared.

Overall, we think that Black Hills falls somewhere in the middle challenge-wise as far as western 100s go. It’s certainly more difficult than entry-level races such as Lean Horse or Rocky Raccoon and is certainly less difficult than a graduate level race such as Hardrock. Of course, direct comparisons are difficult because so many factors come into play for any one race, but based on feedback and personal experience, we would rate the difficulty of the Black Hills 100 course as similar to races such as Leadville, Western States or Bighorn. Like Bighorn, we do not have any entry requirements or a lottery, it’s first come, first serve. If you feel you are prepared for the challenge, then you are more than welcome to come join us!


The 100M race starts at Woodle Field in Sturgis on Friday morning (this is a change from our old Saturday start). The first mile follows the paved city bike path east to the Fort Meade trailhead. From there, the course takes to the Centennial Trail, which is mostly single-track trail with a few sections that follow old logging routes (and one short section that follows brand new logging roads). In total the course is approximately 98% trail with only the first and last mile following the paved bike path. The 100-mile course will take runners to Silver City before turning around and heading back to Sturgis. For the 100M race, there are 8 aid stations along the way, 7 of which are visited twice. Drop bags will be available at Elk Creek (mile 17/83), Dalton Lake (mile 29/71) and Silver City (mile 50). 100 milers will have until 8:00 PM Saturday to finish, which is a grand total of 34 hours (2 hours longer than we offered in past years).

The 50M course will now be run point to point instead of the out and back route used in the past. We will bus 50-mile runners up to the 100M turnaround in Silver City bright and early (very early) Saturday morning. From there, you’ll run down the course to Sturgis. Theoretically, this route will be somewhat easier than the old out and back route since you’re running a net downhill, but there are still some decent climbs to be tackled along the way. 50-mile runners will have 7 aid stations along the way, with drop bags available at Dalton Lake (mile 21) and Elk Creek (mile 33). The 50M cutoff will be 8:00 PM, same as the 100M cutoff, which gives 50 milers a total of 14 hours to finish. This is actually less than we’ve offered in the past, but you should consider that the course is (theoretically) “easier” now and, by comparison, the Quad Rock 50 in Colorado also has a 14 hour cutoff and it is on a much tougher course (trust us, we both have QR50 finishes, and DNFs, to our credit).

The 30K race will start near the Elk Creek trailhead, along Runkle Road. Starting on the road will give everyone a chance to spread out a bit before hitting the trail at the Elk Creek TH. From there, runners will follow the Centennial trail north along the final 17(ish) miles of the 50M/100M course back to Sturgis. You’ll come across two aid stations along the way at Bulldog and Alkali Creek. This course is roughly 30K, give or take a km or two…us ultra runners have never really been that good at math. Overall, you’ll be losing elevation but be prepared for a few significant climbs along the way too.

A word of warning, don’t be deceived by the relatively gentle, rolling terrain of the Black Hills. While this course does not feature the lung searing elevations and jagged mountain peaks of some other western ultras, it is by no means an “easy” course. The best way to describe the Centennial Trail is “relentless”. The trail is almost constantly moving up or down. All of those climbs add up eventually, resulting in more elevation gain than you might expect from an ultra in South Dakota. It’s a challenging route, but also a very beautiful one. Make sure to take a look around while you’re huffing up one of the climbs!

Elevation Gain

The 100-mile course has a cumulative vertical gain of 16,231 feet of climb and 16,231 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 32,462 feet, and takes place at an average elevation of about 4,627 feet.


Event Organiser
Ryan Phillips



Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.

Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain

Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.


Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.

Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.

Endurance - Multi-activity

Type: An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for: Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.

Global - Virtual

Type: A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for: For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Review Black Hills 100

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09:38 30-06-16

I've volunteered, paced or ran this event every year since its inception. The RDs, aid stations and volunteers are top notch. 2016 was my first 100miler. You won't find a more beautiful course. The weather is always unpredictable. You may experience heat stoke and hypothermia in the same race. Be prepared. This ***** is hard.

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06:40 30-06-16

Just finished this year (2016). Only 29 finished out of roughly 80 starters. Beautiful course, lots of ups and downs with not much flat, but worth the struggle. The Black Hills is an incredible place as well with lots of history and plenty of things to do for just about anyone.

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12:26 10-07-15

Amazing race. Organizers and volunteers were top notch. Difficult course with amazing views.

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