- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

BOULDER, Colo. — If you can’t take the heat, get out of Washington.

That’s what I did this year, when I went to one of the great running meccas of the world — Boulder.

This city of 100,000, nestled 5,430 feet high in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, attracts some of the world’s top runners, along with bicycle racers and triathletes.

It may have been legendary Frank Shorter who put Boulder on the map after he won the 1972 Olympic Marathon gold and 1976 Olympic Marathon silver and split his training between Gainesville, Fla., — at sea level — and Boulder, with its mile-high altitude. He also started the hugely successful Bolder Boulder 10K in 1979.

But quickly, others followed.

Through the years, many of the greatest international distance athletes have called Boulder home. Among them: Rosa Mota, Ingrid Kristiansen, Uta Pippig, Arturo Barrios, Priscilla Welch, Rob de Castella, Marc Davis, Mark Plaatjes, Lornah Kiplagat, Steve Jones, Colleen De Reuck and Alan Culpepper.

Jones still resides in Boulder, working with many up-and-coming runners with Olympic dreams. De Reuck and Culpepper, who will be announcing this week their intentions to run the New York City Half Marathon on Aug. 27, are part of the Boulder community, along with members of the Japanese national team.

Six-time Hawaii Ironman Triathlon champion Dave Scott still lives here, long after his retirement.

It takes little time to understand why Boulder, in the words of my host and former competitive masters runner Marty Kibiloski, has become a “destination city.”

“People who have the choice of living anywhere in the country choose to live here,” said Kibiloski, a Richmond native and University of Virginia graduate who moved to Boulder from California a decade ago.

Athletes flock to this city some 35 miles northwest of Denver for the laid-back lifestyle, high elevation, low humidity, moderate snow and temperatures and the environmentally conscious community with a liberal leaning. The mountain views are truly breathtaking. But so are real estate prices, easily rivaling the Washington area in lack of affordability.

But it might be worth it.

On Friday, Kibiloski took me on a 50-minute run from his downtown office to a running/bicycling path along the Boulder Creek. This path parallels Boulder Canyon Drive (SR-119) between Boulder and Nederland, cutting through the foothills and up to the Rocky Mountains. Elite athletes and recreational runners alike enjoy dipping their bodies in the pristine creek to cool down after a workout.

The next day, Kibiloski invited Peter Hegelbach along for the run. Hegelbach, 42, is one of world’s best middle-distance stars, taking third in the 1,500 in the Masters World Championships last year in San Sebastian, Spain, in a stellar 4:01.87.

The route took us up a long dirt ridge with a view of all of Boulder below, including the massive University of Colorado campus. We ran past Shorter’s modest home and later on pass Scott’s residence.

Hegelbach also came to Boulder about a decade ago, joining many of the nation’s top masters runners, including M50 star Steve Gallegos.

Last year, Hegelbach won the masters division of the popular Pearl Street Mile downtown. This year, the race celebrates its 10th birthday on Thursday.

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