The People

The people of Boulder are particularly unique. Take, for example, the guy across from me in the coffee shop. His dreadlocks are pulled back into a bun and his shirt says, “Eat More Kale.” But best of all, he is literally demonstrating yoga moves on his chair. I nearly got hit as I walked by. Yet he hardly stands out in a town where peace-touting hippies busking on the street intermix daily with world-class athletes. Other people even have jobs, working as computer programmers and scientists in the area’s myriad commercial buildings. Walking through Boulder is in many ways like walking through a zoo of humanity, where all the different types of people are on display for one’s inspection.

Ultrarunning can seem like that too, especially during the latter stages of a long race. Some people race by with unswerving focus, while others waltz past casually, commenting on the flowers. Some people are loud, some are silent. Some are catastrophically depressed, while others are extraordinarily buoyant. The spectrum varies widely. This goes far beyond racing, as well. So many people come to this sport from so many different directions that spending time at a race can be an introduction to anything from new languages to new foods to new ideas (usually food-related, usually bad ones). Being a part of the ultrarunning community has introduced me to an amazing array of people and opportunities. This point was especially brought home this past weekend during a friend’s wedding, at which seemingly the entire ultrarunning community was present. As a tribute to the community, here are a few examples of why I love these people.

Joe Grant, that sonofabitch, finally nailed a 100 and ran 25:16 at Hardrock, a PR of over four hours from last year. He can also speak French, which is cool.

Hal Koerner (passing hikers during Hardrock): “Why are people so f***ing condescending? ‘Why aren’t you running?’ they ask. Why don’t you lose fifteen pounds?”

Aaron Marks, midway through a miserable fifty-mile race, snorting watermelon out his nose. Not super encouraging, but he finished!

JT from Colorado Springs, wearing characteristic Schlitz hat, literally finishing Hardrock with a cigar in hand. Spirit!

Jamil Coury, who I lived with briefly in Silverton, who along with his brother Nick singlehandedly manages the entire Phoenix racing scene. Pretty cool to see a small group of people spearhead a whole community of runners.

Ellie Greenwood, the hero of the runners-with-full-time-jobs community, who took second place in the Comrades 50-something mile run and then hardly ran a step before winning the Western States 100 in course record time. Patience is key.

Speaking of Western States, Timothy Olson’s run there was nothing less than earth-shattering. His story of coming back from addiction to a 14:46 Western is inspiring in so many ways. What a great ambassador of the sport.

Bryon Powell, who dropped a great paying, soul-sucking job for a crappy-paying, soul-sucking job reporting on ultramarathons. I make a point regularly to remind him that he could be far richer and work less if he had stayed a lawyer (but us runners would lose something very special).

Buzz Burrell, legend and all-around mountain guy, nowadays designing some of the best packs on the market, complaining that he never had a job until he was sixty. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

Karl Meltzer, for taking seventh place in a race he has won five times, thereby proving that the run and the experience are the priority.

Scott Jurek and his nearly twenty years of ultrarunning dominance now turned to outreach and inspiration, with his new book, speaking engagements and all manner of support for the community.

I couldn’t possibly have enough time to list all the anecdotes I’d like to here. Rest assured that if you’re not mentioned, you’re thought of, because every single person I have known in this sport has had an impact on me. Since I couldn’t possibly continue this indefinitely, maybe some of you could. If you have the time and inclination, please note in the comments one or two stories of your own that you think are worthwhile. This sport is only meaningful because we can share our experiences with people we care about. Thanks for all the fun!

There are 66 comments

  1. Bill Ahlers

    Haha @whodonit good one! Like Jacob this is my first year in ultras. Started running at 43. Was an avid skiier and backcountry man. So it only seemed like a matter of time before I found my way from road marathons to trail ultras. In my limited time I have been inspired by many only through blogs like this but one guy has inspired me more lately- Jay Adlous. At 51 this year he's won the Salt lake flats (twice) the zion 100 the Silver City the pony express and the Devils backbone and Id say to watch for him to win the leadville 100. Iv read much about this guy and blogs hes written, without having met him he seems like what the ultra world is about. Community and inner strength. Another monster out there is Mike Morton. I hope to meet as many of you ultra runners as possible. See ya on the trails!

  2. Bill Ahlers

    @Dan I agree about Dean. I think he'd even laugh at himself. He's that type of guy. He inspired me before I knew of any of those other names. I laugh because I know hes a great ambassador.

  3. mtnrunner2

    I entered the lottery for that wedding, but my name wasn't drawn and I would have been about 300,000th on the wait list.

    I'm the ultimate running loner but I will second (third? fourth? tenth?) the comments about the very welcoming CO Front Range trail running community, for those times when I get out and — as GZ puts it — share some strides.

  4. thomas redeker

    Dakota, great article, beside you, I miss 3 of the most extraordinary ultrarunners of the world, Geoff Roes, Tony Krupicka and last but not least Kilian Jornet, these three guys are motivating me every day to get my bud out of the office and go for a great run in the mountains, thanks all you guys.


  5. Myles Smythe

    I saw Keith at Western States this year, wearing only his tutu and tank top, and with nothing covering his head, while exposing himself to the chilly wind, rain and hail the course brought down on us. It was impressive, to see a man – in a pink tutu – looking happy and warm, in those conditions!

  6. Buzz

    This call-out is to Dakota. He's probably the youngest person on this thread, yet is the one who sounded the gong with insightful and thoughtful observations. At The Wedding he spoke the least, instead learning and appreciating, which struck me as a sign of great sincerity and intelligence.

  7. Ohio

    My Father for being inspired and running his first mile run since high school 1 year after a knee replacement. He inspires me with his dedication to living a healthier lifestyle.

  8. CraigR

    Ann Trason – She set the standard that all women shall be measured!

    Tim Twietmeyer – He is Western States!

    Bill Finkbeiner – 20+ finishes of the Leadville Trail 100!

    Rob Apple – Well over 600 ultra finishes!

    And the list goes on and on :).

  9. paul

    Dakota himself for making all the other Ultra runners lighten up, but still run fast and appreciate/respect the mountains. Its a fine balance of being social, competitive, and respecting nature.

    Dakota's Mom for cheering him to the finish of Hardrock after the the last 12 miles seem to crush everyone.

  10. Bridgett

    Ryan Burch – We refer to him as "OMB" (Old Man Burch) because he is wise beyond his years. The most humble and genuine person I know on and off the trails.

  11. Guy M

    As a new and thoroughly mid-pack ultrarunner and complete stranger from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada (I know …. where??), Krissy accepted my proposal to be my online coach for my first 50K a couple of years ago. This, at a time when she was contemplating big personal changes in her life. As she has from the start, Coach Krissy continues to train me with the same respect, enthusiasm and expertise that she is so well known for as an elite competitor and a top ambassador for the sport of trail and ultrarunning. Thanks Krissy!

    Loved the spirit and enthusiasm of your article, Dakota!

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