Dakota Jones takes a look at the people who make up ultrarunning.

By on July 25, 2012 | Comments

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!

Dakota Jones
Dakota Jones explores the wild places of the world on foot and tells us about it every few weeks. He runs for Salomon and Clif Bar.