Dave Mackey has run all over the world and set records in ultra racing. Beyond the awards, it’s his humble and low-key demeanor that has won him the respect of the ultra-running community.






An endurance journey is more than just running

Altra athlete, Dave Mackey is a household name in the ultra-running world.

Over the course of his career he’s has the opportunity to run all over the world and set records in ultra racing. His success has won him accolades such as Ultrarunning Magazine North American Ultrarunner of the Year and USA Track and Field Ultrarunner of the Year.  

Beyond the awards, it’s his humble and low-key demeanor that has won him the respect of the running community and beyond.

In early summer 2015, Dave was out on a run on a regular route near his home town of Boulder, Colorado, when he stepped on a boulder and fell of a ridge, resulting in a life-changing injury to his leg.  

Over the couple of years that followed Dave underwent surgeries to try to rebuild his lower leg and faced recurring infections and rehabilitation. In constant pain he took the decision to have his damaged leg amputated below the knee for the chance to resume life on his terms with a prosthetic limb.



Taking on a new perspective to his running (and cycling) Dave returned in 2018 to complete the infamous Leadville Race Series – where he had come second only four years previously.

To put the The Leadville Race Series into perspective, the epic adventure consists of five races over the course of the season. It all kicks off with a trail marathon, followed by the 50 mile Silver Rush Race (you get to choose whether you mountain bike or run that one!). Third up is the infamous Leadville 100 mountain bike race, followed the next morning by a 10k trail run.  

Finally, the last race and the piece de la résistance is the Leadville 100 trail run. 

In order to progress in the series, each racer must complete each event in the allotted cut-off time in order to move on to the next. Oh, and did we mention Leadville, Colo. is 10,000 ft above sea level. 

Less than half the athletes who enter The Leadville Race Series manage to finish. In crossing the finish line Mackey has become the only athlete with a prosthetic to complete the series.

Billy Yang, an ultra-running film maker, covered Dave’s return to Leadville in 2018. The resulting documentary titled ‘Leadman’ will be released and celebrated in Dave's hometown of Boulder, Colorado on February 1st 2019. Reserve your tickets for what is sure to be a sell-out local event.

We had the opportunity to talk with Dave Mackey about his journey to ultra-running, his advice for aspiring ultrarunners and what the future holds for his own running adventures.

If you’re local to Colorado, come meet Dave on January 17th at the Boulder Running Company.  


JackRabbit: You’ve had an athletic lifestyle from a young age but found your wheelhouse in ultra-running.  What first drew you to the sport and why did it become your main athletic focus?

Dave Mackey: I was first drawn to trail running in college New Hampshire to stay in shape for soccer and as breaks from classes. Then I moved to Colorado and discovered the trails above and around Breckenridge. My first trail race was actually in Leadville at the Mosquito marathon, which is now coincidentally the Leadville 1/2 marathon, so I guess I got my first start in trail racing in Leadville and was third place there. 

Breckenridge Mount Marathon occurred in 1995, and I finished in fifth place and vomited! From there I raced the Kokopelli 50 K 1996, my first ultra, and won, and was hooked on trying to compete well at ultras. It still took me seven years from there to shoot to compete in a 100 miler at the Western States 100, and in the meantime picked up sponsorship and since then have stayed motivated to run long, even since my accident. 

JR: In the course of your running career, you’ve had the enviable opportunity to have run all over the world in some spectacular locations. Where are your top three spots to trail run from all the places you have raced?

DM: Some very unique places include Hong Kong which has some fantastic trails. The trails around Mont Blanc in Europe. In adventure racing in the 2000s, those are probably the most beautiful and exploratory races, with a couple in Asia, Europe, South America, and Morocco and Mexico. 

But most of all I truly love my local trails in the Boulder peaks. I feel very intimate with my local trails and peaks, and every run is very special right out my door. My favorite run is going Bear Peak, over to South Boulder Peak and Shadow Canyon. 

JR: What advice would you give someone looking to take on and train for their first 50k?

DM: For me personally it took a couple of years to run a 50 K since my first trail race, and overall I’ve taken it easy as far as building up. I think this has led to better longevity in the sport. I also think this has led to fewer injuries and increased long-term motivation.

For someone to run 50 K I would race several distances shorter than marathon, then maybe two months after the marathon try a 50 K. I would also run on dirt or grass as much as possible, as this is better on the body.

JR: You can be the best trained athlete in the world, but in the world of endurance sports, race day nutrition is as important as the physical training.  What works for you to fuel an endurance race of 100 miles? Do you crave anything in particular, and what do you do if your stomach decides not to ‘cooperate’? 

When I ran the Leadville 100 this year, I literally was eating potato chips, pizza, and the energy drink that the race series was using. This worked fine for me, as my pace was not at high race pace. At higher intensity one has to have to focus on nutrition more specifically.

To be quite honest I am not very specific even when I was racing at the elite level. There are a lot of different ways to do it, and over all each runner has to trial and error and see what works for them.


A post shared by Dave Mackey (@mackeydave1) on


JR: The Leadman. A race series of epic proportions.  You first raced (and came in second) as an able-bodied athlete.  Post-accident and amputation you returned to race the series in 2018. What did completing The Leadman mean to you that year, and how was it different/better/more challenging than your previous experience?

DM: The Leadman series in 2018 was very different than in 2014, and more challenging with potential for disaster. I had to manage my leg and prosthetic issues race by race and had several hiccups but I was able to mitigate these issues one at a time.

But over all it really came down to just being stubborn as heck and not quitting. Everyone goes through this though.  Emotionally it was an emotional high to finish  the series this year, much more so than in 2014. 

JR: Tell us about your relationship with Altra Running and what are your preferred styles to train in and race with? 

DM: I’ve been sponsored by Altra for about a year now, and I’m thrilled with how things are going. The company is very easy to work with, the people are fantastic, and I love the elite team that I’m a part of. 

I love the TIMP 1.5. This is my go to shoe in training and I’ll be racing it at most of my events in 2019. The traction is tight, the fit is fantastic, and I’m loving the durability.  The Altra Lone Peak is also one of my top shoes right now too.

JR: Tell us about working with Billy Lang and Matt Trappe on the documentary 'Leadman'. 

Those guys are the best in the ultra documentary realm. And they are working together which makes it that much better. They’re extremely creative, professional, and know the sport in and out over many years. 

They’re also both ultra-runners and truly get the subtleties and passion of the sport. I’ve pretty much just let them run with it. They are also my good buds and we had fun making the film. 

JR: If you could take to the trails with anyone in particular, who would it be and why? 

DM: Hands down it would be my family. We go on hikes mostly but as they’ve grown though they seem more interested in trail hogs. I do wish I could get out with my wife a bit more though!

JR: A new year is upon us. What do you have planned for the year ahead? We believe the return of the Eco-Challenge might be in your future!? 

DM: Right now I plan on running the Lake Sonoma 50, Western States 100, Leadman Race Series, and the Eco Challenge in the fall with my friends. Oh man, just saying that makes me realize I might be in over my head!

JR: A question we like to ask all our interviewees, what are three songs you turn to for inspiration and motivation?

DM: I am pretty varied in my musical taste on and mostly listen to books on tape! I get a lot of reading done that way. Pick any from Metallica, Bruce Cockburn, or older REM songs and that works for me! 



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