The first running was held on June 17, 1995 and it was known then as the Lake City 50. The snowfields on the Continental Divide prevented running the proposed route that first year and the course was reduced to an out and back to the Williams Creek Aid Station. As a result, race progenitors, Chip and Cathy Lee, moved race day to the third week of July. However, Lake City is jam packed full with the usual tourists in the third week of July; vacant rooms are hard to find and the Lake City community had no time for ultra runners or volunteering for their race. In addition, lightning proved to be a significant threat, with frequent tales of near misses on the Continental Divide.
In 2002 the Lee's turned over the race to the Lake City community as a benefit for Lake City EMTs. The race was renamed the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile Benefit Run for Lake City EMTs and the race date was moved back to the vicinity of the Summer Solstice. Since the Solstice falls on a different day of the week from year to year, the day of the race has shifted back and forth from the Saturday before to the Saturday after the Solstice. Dates earlier than the Solstice have been problematic, with high and dangerous creek crossings in Alpine Gulch, steep and/or long snow fields and inaccessibility of the Divide Aid Station by vehicles and the Aid Station Crew.
The race actually fell on the Solstice in 2014. In fact, the moment of Summer Solstice happened just about 9 minutes before the 5AM start. The decision to use the regular course could not be made until a week before the race in 2015 and it was a tough call. A track was hand shoveled across a steep snowfield above the Alpine Aid Station to prevent runners from sliding into the rocks below in the icy early morning hardness of the snowpack. Creek crossings in Alpine Gulch were also very challenging; numerous runners reported being soaked to the neck and then fighting off hypothermia as they climbed, in shadow to the Alpine Aid Station. Every time that we have had concerns about the conditions were years when the race preceded the Solstice. With that in mind, the decision was made to hold future races after June 21 rather than getting out ahead of the Solstice again.
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