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. Justin Contois

    Adam Wilcox – for showing me and the rest of New England that we can run with the big boys out West. His road to success is very inspirational.

    Josh Katzman – for his dominance in New England ultra running (and WS for that matter!), yet his humble approach to running and life.

  2. the runner

    Awesome post!

    The list really never ends. The commonality of all the personalities is, run long while bleeding inspiration.

  3. Chris P.

    Joe Prusaitis – For believing that even Texans can run trail ultras and for being a fantastic promoter of the sport in an area of the country where the general population is uninterested in such a sport and where there is no public land suitable for holding events. The fact that his events are at the same level of quality as one would expect from a race in California, Colorado, or Virginia speaks volumes to Joe's dedication.

  4. S.Novak

    Jason Sullivan and Terri Hayes–For being great promoters of UltraRunning in South Carolina and inspirations for anybody that has ever met them. Great Job at Western States, Jason….and thank you Terri for all your hard work every year with the Ultrasontrails series!

  5. art

    my buddy John V. who read that silly book "Born to Run" got instantly sucked in, ran 14 official ultras in his first year (including a 100) plus numerous unoffical ultras. who, though I am a mentor of his, has taught me so much about will, drive, and tenacity.

  6. Jeff Valliere

    Great post! A few good friends who I most enjoy running with and simultaneously draw inspiration from, on and off the trail:

    John Prater: All around bada$$ mountain climber, Hardrock Finisher, ultrarunner, hard to really put a title on him. One of the nicest guys out there.

    Tony Krupicka: A kindred spirit and all around great guy whose love for the mountains is contagious.

    Dave Mackey: A living legend with more wins at varied distances than just about anybody out there. Still kicking a$$ over age 40, all while juggling med school and a family.

    George Zack: The ringleader of the local running blogosphere. His honest self assessments and revealing tales of his exploits on Pikes Peak and his journey to the Peak (and elsewhere) are always inspiring.

    Brandon Fuller: His transformation from non athlete to 100 mile runner and his zest for Leadville is legendary.

    Rob Timko: Again, another commendable transformation, his story is pretty awesome and his enthusiasm and dedication for the sport is off the charts.

    Bill Wright: His speed record site way back create a monster in me.

    1. George Zack

      Jeff Valliere – mountain goat with a heart of gold. If races like Pikes were half as far and twice as steep, he'd be a household name. Was the king of Green before some Tarzan looking character moved into town. Dedicated father, husband, good friend who appreciates potty humor at its finest. Does 14ers before you are up for breakfast.

  7. Randy

    To all the youngsters out there,they are bringing fresh in-sight into an evolving sport,while still maintaining the "old-school" traditions set by us "old-timers".Thanks.

  8. Andy

    Perspective. It's not too hard to "love" people who share your many of your same interests, passions, and sport… even more so when you live in a community of 'like-minded individuals' (as Boulder is often described).

    The real challenges (and rewards) – at least for me – are living & working with people who DON'T share your passions, interests, or sport AND having to find common ground so that coexistence is possible. Jobs, families, & other variables often force us into communities with diverse interests/perspectives (i.e. not-like minded individuals). It's not easy; then again, nothing really is.

    You run very well.

  9. Jon s.

    Keith Straw for running an amazing amount of races, all while wearing a pink too tutu and maintaining an amazing attitude… He's truly one of a kind and a great inspiration…

  10. Ron

    Dakota's poster boy, Nick Clark. Tough as titanium competitor and dedicated family guy. Mixes it up frequently with non-elites on the FC trails, getting to know us on a first-name basis. A true ambassador for the sport of ultrarunning.

  11. stephenJ

    Anyone over 70 running an ultra. I didn't start running until I was 43. It's nice to know that I've got a lot more years of trail running ahead of me.

  12. Slow Aaron

    Dakota Jones – Who knew a college dropout could right so well?! Mature beyond his years, embodies the quote "take what you do seriously, but don't take yourself seriously." Also, a very patient pacer.

  13. Cheri Redwine

    When I first started running, I took the early start and met "Nancy McGinnis" from Bend. She became my first ultra friend!! When you make an "ultra" friend they are for life! The community is awesome!

  14. Jonathan

    Joe Prusaitis for being a Hardrocker and being a champion for the Texas scene.

    Olga King for being one beast of a runner. Her tenacity is unmatched as is her tough love approach to getting you back out on the trail. Don't ever change Olga.

    Bobby Keogh for showing younger runners up routinely and being able to run an ultra whenever he fells like it.

    Betsy Kalmeyer for helping me get up Pajarito at Jemez and for staying with me the entire climb and descent into the Lodge. Little did I know I had a multiple Hardrock winner helping me.

    To all the mid packers and back packers I get to meet at races and for their bulldog approach to finishing and staying positive when they can just as easily give up.

  15. Phil Jeremy

    Bryon and his team for bringing the ultra world to us every week (I live and run in France and don't speak french). Its my 'go to' site and keeps me connected when I'm running alone in the mountains.

  16. Jacob Puzey

    I'm new to the sport and have never really done more than 50Ks so I can't say that I am truly an ultra runner yet. That said, the community of trail ultras is one of the primary reasons I really don't even care to return to the roads. I love the competition, the challenges, the scenery, and the learning that come from training and racing, but I have been most impressed by the people with whom I have had the privilege of running. Among them, Geoff Roes (I naively didn't even know who he was and as I tried to hang with him at my first running of Chuckanut. He patiently allowed me to tag along for a few miles), Adam Campbell, who was also there at Chuckanut and kindly laughed at my naivete, Max King (who has kindly let me join him on a few training runs in the Bend area despite my pedestrian pace), Yassine Diboun (has tolerated being mistaken for a much thicker, nowhere near as attractive runner from down stream), and Nick Triolo who has not unfriended me despite my affiliation with his nemesis, Nestle sponsored PowerBar. The list of race directors, aid station volunteers, and trail maintenance volunteers could go on and on. I'm hopeful that my first year is only the beginning of what could become a lifelong lifestyle with some great people in scenic places.

    1. Jacob Puzey

      I failed to mention the artistry and dedication of the race photographers like Glen Tachiyama and Micheal Lebowitz who sacrifice by not running many events to enable us to remember and share the agony and the ecstasy we experience on the trails.

  17. Mike W.

    Jason Ballard – for taking me under his wing last year and bringing me into the ultra scene; he has elite level potential, but still runs with this goofy mid-packer and never makes me feel guilty for slowing him down. Perspective and class.

  18. Mike Weston

    Eldrith Gosney, who finished a 100 miler shortly after her 70th birthday last year, and then almost broke 7 hours at the Quad Dipsea.

  19. Deby Kumasaka

    James Varner: Race Director extraordinaire: True Inspiration

    He puts on such great events that it's impossible not to get hooked on the sport. They aren't just about the run but all that is ultrarunning. The trail building parties, the post race barbeque, concert and annual "weekend camp outs for the event." He is always at the finish line to shake your hand when you cross, no matter how long it takes, and reassures you that you can accomplish new challenges.

    1. Brandon

      I agree with Deby and Candice!

      Matt Hart for unintentionally showing me the ultra world and trail running

      and James Varner for sealing the deal.

      Krissy Moehl her enthusiasm, inspiration and talent is contagious

      Sean Meisner, Candice Burt, Kevin Douglas, Joe Grant, Ellie Greenwood, Gary Robbins, Eric Sach and many more.

      Awesome writing Dakota!

  20. Jason

    Great article!

    -Candice Burt.. you deserve to be named also! You're a big part of RSR, and as previously mentioned, you and James put on a FANTASTIC series of races. So much so that it kinda stinks for me to move to Hawaii (come out and run Peacock and HURT with me!).

    -Gary Robbins. Class act! Humble, but tough.

  21. konrad

    David Horton! C'mon man David Horton!! Who doesn't have a story about David Horton! I don't even know where to start. Great guy.

  22. Michael Kealy

    Greg Norrander, for tirelessly documenting our sport with amazing photos. He gives up so much of his time to help us see the goings-on in the mountains out yonder.

  23. Todd

    Ulli Kamm: Never runs a step, and finishes ahead of a lot of people who try to never walk a step. So tough mentally.

    Matt Carpenter: His Incline Club has introduced hundreds to the joys of trail running.

    Stan Jensen: For

    Dale Garland, Charlie Thorn and the gang: For keeping Hardrock Hardrock.

    Bill Dooper: LT100's No. 1 fan

    Monica Scholz, Karl Meltzer, Liz Bauer, Scott Brockmeier: For proving Karl's mantra that 100 miles isn't that far by running so many in a year.

  24. Andrew

    I was running UROC last year and closing in on mile 30 limping unfortunately (peroneal tendon?). I was just trying to get to the next aid station with my crew and there was nothing between mile 18 and 33 where crew was allowed so I had been limping for quite some time. All of a sudden I see a van creeping up hill in the opposite direction It was a camera van in front of Geoff Roes (2nd place at the time). Geoff not only asked if I was all right, but encouraged me on to the next aid saying it wasn't too much further. Did I mention he was running up a mountain chasing Wardian with a few grand on the line? He ended up grabbing first and the check. Just goes to show you what a great guy he really is. I must have looked pretty hagard cause a bit later Devon Crosby Helms stopped to make sure I was alright. She ended up second. What other sport will the champs stop what they are doing to make sure the rest of the field is alright?… What a great community.

  25. TheBaldEnglishTeache

    I'm giving a big shout out to all the bloggers out there who keep me inspired, informed, and entertained. In addition to those already mentioned, Footfeathers (Tim Long) is always good for a laugh.

  26. whodunit

    Dean Karnazes — for reminding us all that an angular chin and some shameless self promotion is worth a North Face sponsorship.

    1. Dan

      I know everyone likes to joke about Dean, and who knows where his true motives lie, but I would say he's done more to help the sport of running than anyone on this list.

  27. Ggregory

    Krissy Moehl, y'all! She's been running smart ultras and winning them since she worked with Scott & the crew at Seattle Running Company. Hardrock, UTMB, Chuckanut, the list goes on. She's an incredible ambassador for the sport and inspires everyone with her smiles & encouragement. And, she meets Dakota's criteria as a (recent) Boulder local!

  28. 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!

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.


  32. 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!

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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 :).

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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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