David Skelly didn’t come naturally to extreme running races.
However, he has proven himself to be a natural at the somewhat inconceivable feat of running of running 100-mile ultra-extreme trail marathons in the far west. Races staged in national parks, arid hills and valleys and national parks and forests which often involve dramatic altitude changes and impactful transitions from the heat of the day to the cold of the night.
Marathons of this length are adventures and journeys to test endurance and survival skills and take place in the harshest of terrains where human beings are visitors to lands ruled by some the top predators on the planet.
The 35-year-old Skelly, the son of Dave Skelly and Jean Campbell and a 2003 graduate of Ogdensburg Free Academy, ran his second centurian trek in June completing the Big Horn 100-Mile Trail Run in Wyoming in 28 hours, five days, 23 hours and 40 seconds. His time bettered the average finish of 30:07.39, placed him 40th overall and 19th among the 57 entries in his age group.
The event is an out and back 100-mile trail race in the Sheridan National Forrest in Wyoming which includes a 20,500 foot ascent and a 20,750 foot decent.
He made his 100-mile debut at the 2019 Mogollon Monster in Arizona posting a 26:10:48.
Both times qualified for the prestigious Hard Rock 100 Miler in Silverton, Colo. where the field is composed through a lottery like the Boston Marathon.
Working his way to the 100-mile races he completed the Sheep Mountain Endurance Run 50 miler in both 2019 (10:30) and 2018 and the Indian Creek 50 miler in 10:54.7 in 2018.
“Most of the 100 mile races are held in remote areas and there are aid stations on the course. Runners can stop and eat if they wish and drink coffee to get the caffeine needed to help stay awake. The times are pretty relative as weather conditions and the terrain make a big difference” said Skelly.
“I prefer to keep moving but I met my dad at one of the aid stations at the Big Horn and we talked a little bit.”
Reaching the 100-mile sign post was an elevated ascension to the ultra marathon ranks from a humble beginning. He competed in varsity cross country at OFA where he was a solid number three runner for the Blue Devils.
“I was out running one day with my father. We ran by the home of OFA Cross Country Coach Jim Adams regularly and one day Jim came out and ran with us and asked me to come out for cross country” recalls Skelly who played hockey throughout his high school days and still plays regularly in an adult hockey league at his home in Colorado.
“He asked me to give cross country a try and I ran my senior year. I had a solid year but I came up three or four places short of making states.”
His father, Dave Skelly, also introduced his son to long distance foot treks.
Following his graduation in 2004, David Skelly and his dad walked the Appalachian Trail which stretches from Maine to Georgia.
After moving to Colorado, where he lives just 15 miles from his brother Kellen Skelly, David Skelly began extending his running from 5Ks to 50 milers and eventually to the 100 milers as part of the outdoor lifestyle he loves.
In the winters he works as a ski instructor at the Breckinridge Ski Lodge and in the warmer months he is employed as an irrigation specialist for a landscape company.
“I have always enjoyed hiking and backpacking and running extreme distances just fits. I love the mountains and teaching children to ski” says Skelly.
“Doing the 100 mile races I meet some amazing people and there is a tremendous learning curve involved. Like all running you work hard to get better.”
His training for ultra distance races includes 60-70 miles per week and after a day off he completes a long run of 18-22 miles on the weekend.
The training prepares a runner for the competition but the recovery is just matter of individual perseverance.
“After I run a 50-mile race, I am pretty much back to normal the next day. After a 100-mile race I am pretty beat up. It takes a while to get back, it is pretty tough to get around the day after a race,” says Skelly.
Skelly plans to keep training hard and improving in the sport as he and his girlfriend prepare to start a family.
“I have permission to keep going so I am looking forward to see what comes next,” he says.