Coffee and a Mountain Marathon

I look down in disbelief as the coffee seeps out of the machine, pours onto the floor, and soaks the front of my slippers. It is 4 a.m. and I am in charge of preparing the morning brew for runners at the Boulder Mountain Marathon and 10 Mile Ascent.

Of all the duties one can be assigned to when volunteering at an event, coffee seems like a good one. However, since I really love coffee, and have been known to partake in the snobby conversations that often surround the quality of the cup (at least in Boulder), I feel that my matinal task is of the utmost importance.

This explosion in my kitchen, followed by me not-so-discreetly and rudely telling the pot what I think of it, has woken my house guest, Tetsuro. He is visiting from Japan for the race and must be wondering what all the ruckus is about.

Brewing coffee in bulk is not the easiest undertaking, particularly when trying to figure out a new system at such an early hour without the black magical liquid swirling through me.

As I clean up the mess, I brew my own pot of espresso, hoping that the caffeinated zing will help the process. It facilitates a bathroom break, but does little to get me fully functioning.

Leaning on the kitchen table, I am having flashbacks to the Arizona Trail Race, telling myself to focus and just keep it together. The level of drama is absurd for the triviality of the situation. Nonetheless, I wake Deanne with the desperation of a man who just lost a puppy in the snow.

I explain the brewing system to her and head down to the start line with two thermos pump pots.

The start/finish area is getting gradually set up. I am walking around wide eyed with a “do you even know what happened back there” expression on my face while all the volunteers are super relaxed. Outside of my kitchen, everything seems to be falling into place as planned. Runners are trickling in and to my surprise none of them appear to be angrily awaiting their coffee.

With the coffee extravaganza now under control, and the race about to start, I ride my bike up the hill out of town to check on the aid stations and ensure that the course markings are still all in place. The previous evening, Tetsuro, Glen, and I drove the course to mark it, but being that the race takes place on a weekend, I was a little worried that certain junctions might be vandalized. People like to drink beer and shoot at stuff up here, and big yellow placards would make for good target practice.

Last night the fog was thick, it was eerie and nearly dark as we finished. I was questioning our choice of marking tape, green with grey stripes, basically pine and fog colored for the perfect camouflage blend. Thankfully, everything seems a lot less intense during the day.

The fog still lingers, but only enough to add a touch of natural mystic to the atmosphere without really impeding visibility. There are no bullet holes in the signs. All the volunteers are in place, organized and upbeat. It is a glorious morning, and I finally feel that I can relax and enjoy the race as it unfolds.

I am perched on a rock outcropping 20 feet above the Switzerland Trail looking down at the course. Emerging from the fog come the silhouettes of two runners, Galen Burrell and David Glennon. They are leading the race, floating down the double track. There is something about the effortlessness of their stride that perfectly matches the airiness of the weather.

The scene has a particularly aesthetic feel to it with their running gracefully complementing the environment.

I take a sip of coffee from the thermos I brought with me. It is good. Really good actually, kind of like the running, and the weather, and this whole marathon. Good coffee, good running. That is about right.







Joe Grant

frequently adventures in wild places, both close to home (a frequently changing location) and very far afield. He inspires others by sharing his words and images that beautifully capture the intersection of the wilds, movement, and the individual at Alpine Works.