The Casual Champion
Superlatives and mixed opinions chase Karl Meltzer. His response? "Whatever, man."
I'm on my way to spend time with the most prolific mountain ultrarunner in the sport's history. ...
Photo by David Clifford
I'm on my way to spend time with the most prolific mountain ultrarunner in the sport's history.
Karl Meltzer's meticulous directions guide me through the Salt Lake City area, as a wild wind swirls snow around Wasatch peaks overhead. Nine lights, a left, 1/10th of a mile—and I stop on a serene suburban drive lined with 70s-era earth-tone homes.
Meltzer's garage door gapes open. Inside sits an SUV with a bumper sticker asking, "Are you strange?" It's a fair enough question as I gear up to hang out with a guy noted as much for his atypical demeanor as his trophy case. Says fellow ultrarunner Joe Kulak, who has run against Meltzer in Virginia, Colorado and Utah: "To say he's wired differently is almost an understatement—he's spent literally half his life in the mountains."
A sinewy, 5'10" figure ("142 pounds," I'm told later) appears from the garage. "Hey, man!" Here in the throes of a late-winter snowstorm, Meltzer is in a rumpled, untucked T-shirt and ball cap, wearing house slippers and holding a can of ice-cold Natural Light beer.