Obviously, achieving this is not something you do on an impulse, you have to suspect that... We tell you everything.
Dion has set himself the challenge of completing the "Grand Slam of 100 miles" and the Leadman Series in just 3 months. When others already find the fact of doing one of these series huge, doing both is seen as crazy and endless... But it doesn't scare him!
The "Grand Slam of 100's" includes the oldest 4 x 100 miles in the world and only a small handful of people manage to achieve this challenge per year (yes, yes.....). So we are talking about the Old Dominion (Virginia), the Western States (California), the Leadville 100 (Colorado) and the Wasatch 100 (Utah).
The Leadman Series is a little more special, but just as complicated... The runners must complete the 5 races of the series, each in a given time to have the right to start on the next one. If this is not the case, the runner will not be allowed to continue the Leadman Series, he will still be able to run the following races individually (for... pleasure?). This Leadman includes the Leadville Trail Marathon & Heavy Half (26.2 miles), Silver Rush (50 miles), Leadville Trail 100 MTB (100 miles by bike), Leadville 10k run (6.2 miles) and Leadville Trail 100 (100 miles).
To give you an idea of what this means in terms of timing, you can take a look at Dion's calendar below. You will also notice that at the beginning of the year he "warmed up" with a 200 miles run and the MaXi Race marathon!
But why doing this?
"Everything really happened by accident," he says. We want to believe it, because making this combo, we don't think about it like that....
More than 5,000 runners enter the lottery every year to participate to the Western States (part of the Grand Slam) for only 368 places available... When we know that some people wait until 7 years to be drawn, Dion didn't think he had that chance at his first attempt.
Which explains why he signed up for the Leadman series instead, not suspecting that in the end he would be drawn at random!
And yet, the news came in, Dion was drawn at random! As such an opportunity cannot be denied, it was at this point that his plans changed a little and he had to revise his schedule accordingly.
The Leadville Trail 100 being part of both the "Grand Slam of 100's" and the Leadman Series, the fact of trying both series went through Dion's head...
So that's where Dion Léonard's crazy challenge came from: "People have said I’m crazy to attempt one of these challenges, but the challenge is what drives me to try and finish it”.
His preparation for such a challenge
Do you wonder what kind of crazy preparation he had to make to be at the top for these two challenges?
Well, his training hasn't changed, 100 to 130 km per week for 5,000 mt+, which, we agree, is already quite a bit.
Don't forget: the Leadville Trail 100 MTB is a race but by bike, which required special preparation. But no problem for him, he incorporated it as he could in his planning. In addition, Dion told us "I've never done a bike race before, it's all new to me". Not to mention the fact that this race is reputed to be the toughest in the United States, not bad for a first time!
Living in Chamonix and not having added the UTMB® to his calendar (we will forgive him)... He still took advantage of a one-month break between 2 races this summer to return to Chamonix and make the track of the UTMB with some friends (and of course his dog Gobi was part of it). A little training before the final straight!
Dion Léonard has therefore completed the 8 races of his program. Not doing things halfway, he managed to reach the 6th place on the Old Dominion, to get the "Big Buckle" by finishing under the 25-hour mark on the Leadville 100 and did very well on the rest despite some uncertainties before the start of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB which is by bike.
As he explained to us: "I wasn't sure I would finish this one on time because I had never done a bike race before and I wasn't trained enough. But I gave it my all and managed to finish 11 seconds from the maximum time." Only 11 seconds!
Dion became the first man to make the Leadman series and the Grand Slam in the same year! What a feat!
We still wanted to know how he had experienced all these races, because it’s not common to make such complicated races in such a short time (unless we are called Luca Papi, of course...).
He admitted that "the Leadman is difficult because there is a lot of altitude at each race and when you don't live there, you have to get used to it.”. This makes the task more difficult, as if the distance was not enough...
But now, the Leadman is finished and accomplished with flying colours! "I feel tired, with the Grand Slam it's been a hectic summer and my body tells me I have to stop running," and we understand, how many people in the world would choose a summer like this rather than a quiet summer on the beach?
News from Gobi
As a reminder, Gobi is Dion's dog. They met in 2016 at the Ultra-Trail Gobi March in China. Lost in the middle of the desert, she set her heart on him during the race and accompanied him to the finish line, since then they have never left each other!
However, Gobi was not part of this American challenge, but Dion has other adventures planned with her in Croatia and Slovenia later this year!
Now that Dion has finished his challenge and has become the first man to finish this feat, it is finally time for him to take a real rest, right?
Well yes, he will take the opportunity to do a little road trip in the United States and take a few days to relax and recover, he deserves it!
Congratulations again Dion for this incredible achievement!