Canadian runner hit by lightening, still finishes
The electrifying story of Adam Campbell's third place at the Hardrock 100-mile race
Twisted ankles, dehydration, loss of electrolytes, getting lost, hypothermia, altitude sickness, exhaustion: these are the usual dangers of running the Hardrock 100, a 100-mile trail race through 13,000 foot peaks of Colorado. But for Canadian Adam Campbell the crux was more shocking.
At the summit of the race highpoint, 14,000 foot Handy's Peak, he and his pacer Aaron Heidt were struck by lightening.
"The moment we got to the summit, there was this unbelievably loud sound, like a gun right in my ear, and this unbelievably bright light," he told Mcleans Magazine in an interview. "You could just smell the electricity in the air and hear this crackling all around us. We were knocked off our feet and we were both really, really scared, and just swore a lot."
Maybe the most shocking thing about the incident was that moments before lightening had struck the exact same spot. About 60-miles into the race Campbell picked up Heidt at an aid station, moving into third place at the same time. Together they began the climb up to Handy's, part of the 32,000 feet of climbing in the race, popping out of the woods and into the alpine.
"Dusk had started to settle, and we looked over and we could see this unbelievable sky—vibrant red colours and beautiful jagged peaks, but we could also see really bad clouds starting to roll in," Campbell remembers.
As they neared the summit the storm hit, sending a cobweb of lightening down onto the peak ahead. "We kept pushing forward," he says. "We figured we’d be safe at this point, because something just struck and normally there’s a bit of a delay before the next bolt, so we thought we should get up and over the summit as quickly as possible and get to safety."
When they got to the top the lightening struck them both knocking them to the ground. "Both Aaron and I looked at each other, asked “are you okay,” did a self-assessment, and we didn’t hesitate—we had to get out of there," he remembers. "There wasn’t a trail, so we were running basically down this rocky bouldery chute, still pitch-black with heavy winds and rains, until we could get somewhere and stop and compose ourselves and ask, 'Did that really just happen? Were we just struck by lightning?' Then we decided to keep running the race at that point."
And run it he did, eventually crossing the finish line in 25 hours and 56 minutes, still in third place.
"I had a huge sense of accomplishment, because other than a lightning strike, I had a perfect race," Campbell says. "I was very proud of how I was able to execute my game plan on the day. And yeah, also just a sense of relief at surviving."