True Grit: The Man Who Founded Leadville

Garett Graubins September 12th, 2014

Ken Chlouber shoots from the hip and turns wild-eyed vision into reality

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Photo by David Clifford

From the main street of Leadville, Colorado, staging site for the Leadville Trail 100 Race Across the Sky, one savors an unhindered view across the sage-speckled Arkansas River Valley. Here, the sound of spring melt-off is punctuated by the whoosh-zee-whoosh-zee casts of fly fishermen. Over the valley, to the west, two of the state’s most revered 14,000-foot peaks, Mount Massive and Mount Elbert, watch over the valley, counting time to the next tangerine sunset.

On another row of peaks, nearly 40 miles to the south, rests 12,600-foot Hope Pass, the bane and ecstasy of every Leadville Trail 100 runner, who must pass over it twice in stumbling pursuit of their dream.

Downtown, old Victorian buildings line the streets, home to brothels and saloons back in the town’s raucous mining days, when it was known for a short time as Cloud City. Back then, a local newspaper said that “Leadville never sleeps,” and it’s easy to imagine the sound of piano music, whinnying horses, clinking glasses, laughter of fallen women, card-game brouhahas and perhaps a gun shot cracking through a crisp, cold night.

Yet, Leadville is not a ski Mecca like Aspen or Vail. Blessed with natural beauty, she also puts her imperfections on display for all to see. On the south end of town, just past the turn off for the town landfill, dilapidated homes sleep, seemingly waiting for a bulldozer or the town’s next out-of-towner anxious to buy a slice of unshaven Shangri-La. On Leadville’s outskirts lies a junkyard littered with 50-year-old trucks and mounds of old tires. Leadville invites people to love her, bumps and bruises and all, and herein lies her charm.

On the north end, a long, eight-foot-high concrete wall parallels the main street. Perhaps as part of a beautification project, somebody has painted it white. On top of that chipped white paint is written, “We [heart] Leadville~Great Living @ 10,200.’”

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Welcome to Leadville. Photo by Geoffrey Baker.

This whitewashed proclamation can be seen from the offices of Ken Chlouber, founder of the venerable (and, recently, controversial) Leadville Trail 100.

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Chlouber and longtime Leadville Trail 100 cohort Merilee Maupin. Photo by David Clifford.

A Perfect Fit

“If you were to pick the perfect RD for a race like Leadville, it would be Chlouber,” says nine-time Leadville Trail 100 finisher Eric Truhe. “He’s tough, charming, gritty and rough around the edges.”

Just like the town itself.

These are trying days for Chlouber and “his” race, though. The 75-year-old icon is in the late afternoon of his epic life. His autobiography—if he ever stopped moving long enough to write one—would read like one part Steve Jobs (there’s a clear visionary streak in him), another part Forrest Gump (for his eclectic mix of accomplishments, which includes a lengthy run as state senator and many years spent underground working in a mine) and a final part Sir Edmund Hillary (the very embodiment of an indomitable spirit, with a defiant reverence for any mountain peak). In fact, Chlouber even displays an antique ice axe in his office—one that belonged to Sir Edmund himself.

At the same time, while there may be a temptation to stride into the sunset, Chlouber’s beloved Leadville Trail 100 is being poked, prodded and occasionally teased on the playground like an awkward and overly self-conscious adolescent.

As we reported earlier this year, the 2013 race fell under fire for growing too big and giving its runners (and fans) a sub-par experience. Dispatches from the race made it sound like an apocalyptic novel, with cars parked at a standstill, panicked crew members who couldn’t link up with their runners, horns blaring and zombie racers stumbling through auto exhaust.

Ultrarunner Rod Bien of Bend, Oregon, who crewed for a friend, blogged in a story entitled, “Leadville Loses Its Soul”: “I could simply not believe all the trash on the course.  GU wrappers, bottles, cans, human waste with soiled toilet paper next to it. It was honestly unbelievable. In short, this race has taken a wrong turn.”

Fall-out from the 2013 race was severe. The renowned Hardrock 100 Endurance Run removed Leadville, its Colorado neighbor, from its list of qualifying races. The website announced: “ … the 2013 Leadville 100 ignored other traits of importance to the HR [Hardrock]: environmental responsibility, support of the hosting community, and having a positive impact on the health of our sport.”

“I gotta admit, anything negative kinda stings,” says Chlouber. “It used to be when people had a problem with the race, they’d call me and we’d fix it. Now I hear the complaints once they’ve run their course through social media.”

To know the Leadville 100—and map a possible path to its recovery—is to understand Ken Chlouber. The rise of the Leadville Trail 100—and its three-decade run as a crown jewel of the trail-running calendar—is undeniably intertwined with his own life journey. And, if the race is to regain its faded-denim glory, it can take some lessons from Chlouber’s intrepid spirit and his town’s refusal to ever give up.

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Chlouber talks Leadville in his “rat’s nest of inspiration.” Photo by David Clifford.

Cowboy’s Den

The entryway to Ken Chlouber’s office is a work in progress. The building itself is in a state of restoration. In the old days, which in Leadville are never too far distant, it was a mom-and-pop grocery store. Chlouber waxes nostalgic about how the previous owner, a rotund-yet-diminutive Italian woman, sold penny candy and pumped gas in her black dress and white apron. Many of the building’s relics have not yet found their permanent place. A stuffed buffalo head sits on the floor. In the corner stands a cardboard stand-up of John Wayne, rifle at his side.

Around a corner is Chlouber’s main working area. If he were a lawyer or doctor, this would be a study. Instead, it’s more of a rat’s nest of inspiration. It sits in a state of chaos—reflective of a man with many interests, a diverse background and a daily schedule too large to cram into a standard 24 hours. Chlouber says, “I don’t do typical days. Never did.”

Mountaineering books are scattered about and a reminder of a doomed 2013 expedition on Nepal’s 26,759-foot Manaslu, the eighth-highest peak in the world. On that trip, Chlouber retreated to lower altitudes with life-threatening lung problems only two days before a deadly avalanche took the lives of 11 climbers. Says Chlouber, “That reminder says, ‘Get out and train, and train like your life depends on it.’” One wall displays a ministry certification.

At least four large knives sit around, one of them an arm-length machete. Chlouber recalls a saying that he attributes to his dad: “Keep your gun clean and your knife sharp.” A rusty sign beckons: “Ride Bulls, Meet Nurses!” At age 60 Chlouber decided he’d become the World Champion Senior Bull Rider. “After a major concussion and three shoulder surgeries, I began to rethink that,” he says.

There are photos from Chlouber’s 22 years in elected office. From the high walls, the marble-eyed heads of animals watch over us, souvenirs from Chlouber’s hunting trips, many of them corporate affairs aimed at building political and business relationships.

Chlouber had recently returned from one such trip, a getaway in Wyoming attended by former Vice President Dick Cheney, an unabashed supporter of the oil and gas industry, just like Chlouber. When asked if he supports it, he says, “Hell, yes! Who wouldn’t? It drives America.”

Chlouber, in an earlier phone call, noted, “Our dickhead governor didn’t go [on the hunting trip].” Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, continues to tread a tricky balance between the industry and his party’s environmental platform.

Chlouber’s physical stature can be intimidating—especially as he towers over a 150-pound writer like me. He stands a nugget over six feet tall and weighs in the neighborhood of 200 pounds. As he walks to his chair, the dusty wood floor creaks under his western boots. His unkempt hair covers the majority of his neck, stringing out in random directions as if swirled by a mountain gust. His face reveals crags from decades of high-altitude sun, relentless elements and weighty concerns that tend to keep a man up at night—like, for example, whether any live sticks of dynamite were left in the mine. His brown eyes are dark and direct. They can make tender contact with your own or bore holes through your sockets, depending on where Chlouber decides you stand.

Sitting in blue jeans and a sleeveless T-shirt (never mind that it snowed the night before), Chlouber reflects on the epiphany, elbow grease and alignment of stars that launched the Leadville Trail 100 more than three decades ago.

Chlouber equates the birth of the Leadville Trail 100 with necessity. “We had to do something,” he says.

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The main drag through downtown Leadville, Colorado. Photo by Geoffrey Baker.

Frigid Reality Meets its Match

In 1982, Chlouber was an underground shift boss at the Climax Mine, a sprawling facility uphill from Leadville near 11,318-foot Fremont Pass. Climax mined molybdenum, an alloy used in the production of very hard steel.

As a boss, Chlouber would arrive a half hour before his shift to get ready and receive updates from earlier shift bosses. “Maybe some dynamite didn’t go off and was still in the rock,” he explains. In June of 1982, Chlouber was suited up in his hard hat, steel-toed boots, heavy leather gloves, lamp belt and the clothes that “you’d work in for an entire week.” He was heading to the “cage to go 600 feet straight down,” when he got called to a meeting where his supervisor matter-of-factly said, “Go home. We’re shuttin’ her down. This time for good.”

“The weather was cold,” says Chlouber, “but maybe it’s always cold when you lose your job.”

“There were a lot of big men made of tough timber who had to go back down that hill [to Leadville],” Chlouber glumly recalls. “I had to go home to my wife and little son and tell them that Dad didn’t have a job.” Literally overnight Leadville’s unemployment rate rocketed to almost 90 percent.

“We lost over 3,200 good mining jobs,” he says. “The hurt didn’t stop there, either. Production tax from the mine paid 86 percent of the town’s property tax. Next came the huge tax shift from the mine to Leadville residents, who had lost all ability to pay it.”

At the time, Chlouber was also a Leadville Town Commissioner. He and the council circled up and shifted into crisis mode. In search of solutions, they hired an economic developer for advice on how to pull the town up from rock bottom.

In a nutshell, the developer’s assessment was, says Chlouber, “We had our mining heritage and we had our mountains. We needed something that would hit both of those.” The developer advised, “You need to get people here, and they need to spend the night.”

But how could rough-and-tumble Leadville, with its faded paint, slanted-floor hotels and lack of a ski hill compete with the shiny, chic nearby mountain towns?

Chlouber had started running in the 1970s, when he first came to Leadville. The town had hosted (and still does) a celebration of its mining heritage, called “Boom Days.” The main attraction, in addition to the Victorian-costumed ladies and parade, was a burro race, which required the lungs of a runner, brute strength forged from living in the mountains, and questionable willingness to prod a donkey up and down a mountain. Chlouber had all of the above and he trained for and ran his first burro race in 1977. He’d go on to do 30 more, and also ticked 14 Leadville Trail 100 finishes. To prepare—and stay in shape—he ran sans jackass, too. “Back in the day, trail running was all there was.”

While agonizing over possible solutions to the town’s sudden unemployment crisis, Chlouber read a story about a foot race in California, called the Western States 100, and it planted the seed of an idea—hosting an epic running event in his own town. He says, “If people ran 100 miles here, they’d have to stay overnight.” Could Leadville host its own version of the Western States 100?

Chlouber decided that it could and, with the help of several others, including Merilee Maupin, who was the local travel agent, and Jim Butera, then-President of the Colorado Ultra Club, put the wheels in motion to host what sounded ludicrous to many and dangerous to some: a 100-mile foot race at altitudes above 10,000 feet.

“You can’t have people run that far at this altitude. You’ll kill them,” Chlouber remembers Dr. Bob Woodward, a local Lake County physician, saying, while shaking his finger at him.

Chlouber can’t remember his own reply, but admits that he “probably said, ‘Fuck you.’”

That first year, the race went off with 45 runners. Nobody died and many of the runners would return to run it again. Chlouber admits, though, that even today there’s always a shadow of a worry that something might go wrong. “There are always concerns,” he says, “Thankfully, the great majority of worries are never realized.”

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Chlouber leads his chant, “I will commit! I will not quit!” Photo by Geoffrey Baker.

Unbreakable and Incorrigible

Chlouber seems to have made it his life mission to repeatedly prove that there are multiple pathways to success, and the key is never giving up. He grew up in Shawnee, Oklahoma, echoing his aw-shucks persona and smirking drawl. Like most red-blooded southern boys, he played high-school football and did pretty well. “Football was everything,” he says. “We were even invited to visit the University of Oklahoma and do a short workout with the team.” Then there was a gun accident.

In the fall of his junior year, Chlouber and two buddies decided to go hunting. “For what it didn’t matter,” he says. “One [of the boys] had no gun sense and probably none of us had any common sense.” Chlouber had loaned the boy an old double-barreled 12-gauge. When his friend pulled the trigger to “test” the safety, the gun went off. “All the skin, muscle and whatever else were blown away from my right knee.” Chlouber still has the buckshot in his knee as a reminder of that dashed football dream.

Chlouber graduated from Shawnee High School in 1957, and shortly afterward married Pat, his wife today. “Pat was a cheerleader and I was the football-team captain,” he says. “Perfect.” Chlouber did a tour with the U.S. Army and then enrolled at Oklahoma Baptist University, where he earned a degree in biology in 1967. He set his sights high and applied to medical school. “All I had to do was complete the admission application and return it with $1,500,” he says sarcastically. “It might as well have been $15 million, because I didn’t have 15 cents.”

Ken and Pat shifted their sights to another goal: to “get the hell out of Oklahoma.” They got a fresh start in Denver, where Chlouber sold insurance. “I loved it there,” he says. “They served whiskey on the street. There was a dog track. It was a great time for a country kid like me.”

When the Chloubers had a son, Cole, in 1974, they decided that city living didn’t suit a young family. It was then that Chlouber got a job at the Climax mine and headed 100 miles west, into the mountains and made a home in Leadville. “My total job was making little rocks out of big rocks,” he says. “And that meant dynamite. Every day was the Fourth of July, and I had the world’s largest mining company buying me these great big firecrackers. Sure there were powder limits underground. I always started with the maximum and went up.”

In the mid-1980s, Chlouber found a new calling: politics. “If I have any talent, it is just talking to people,” he says. He was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, where he served for 10 years. After that, he became a state senator for eight more years. “I was passionate about it because you can accomplish things [for your constituents],” says Chlouber.

One of his closest friends from his two-plus decades in office is Carl Miller. Miller, a Democrat who succeeded Chlouber as a state representative when he moved to the State Senate, also worked in the mine with Chlouber and served with him as a Lake County Commissioner.

“Ken was not a party-line man,” says Miller, who still lives in Leadville. “He had his beliefs and, when he was fighting for some legislation, would put his heart and soul into it. Sometimes he would have a very hot temper, but when the smoke cleared, he was able to put it behind him.”

One hot-button issue Miller recalls was unions. The Republican Party is traditionally against worker unions, primarily on the grounds that they discourage a free market and cost more jobs than they save. Miller notes that “when a bill was perceived as anti-labor, he (Chlouber) would side with the Dems.”

Chlouber, according to Miller, always supported civil unions as well. This also bucked his party’s platform. “I’m more conservative that Ken,” jokes Miller, “I probably voted with the Republicans more than he did.”

Chlouber surrenders to the notion that he’s still a politician, even though he’s no longer in office. He says, “The only way to get politics out of a man’s blood is with embalming fluid.”

Preacher Man

Chlouber’s political talents and his soul-deep passion perfectly complemented his ongoing role as Leadville 100 Race Director, and nowhere did that fact shine brighter than in his pre-race pep speeches, which he delivered up until 2011. With the conviction of a southern preacher and gusto of a legislator pushing through a bill in the wee hours, Chlouber worked Leadville runners into an “I-can-do-anything” frenzy. In his office, he rattles off his mantra, talking points for every speech he gave to runners for three decades, before he surrendered the oratorical duties to his son, Cole:

“You don’t have to be a great athlete … but you have to want it … because it’s going to hurt … but it’s only going to hurt for 30 hours … and if you stop, it’s going to hurt for a whole year, until you can try again.”

Many Leadvillites may forget large sections of the actual course, but few forget the pre-race rally winding down with Chlouber leading the chant: “I commit! I will not quit!” Or his soulful proclamation to every athlete: “You are better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can.”

Says Kirk Apt, a former Leadville winner and 19-time finisher, about the first time he heard Chlouber’s speech: “I remember thinking, ‘Now that’s an ultrarunner!’ He’s so authentic and has such love for the sport and his town. I loved his belief in the transformative power of ultrarunning, and that inspired me to begin my own journey of looking beyond the simple sporting nature of ultras.”

His Yang to Her Yin

Apt adds a note about Chlouber’s Leadville legacy. “I can’t think about Ken without also thinking of Merilee. To me, they are ‘Ken and Merilee,’ and if there were such a thing, they’d be first ballot Ultrarunning Hall of Fame members.”

Aside from Chlouber, it is not a stretch to say that Merilee Maupin has been equally instrumental in making the Leadville Trail 100 a reality. Since meeting in the late 1970s, the two have become the best of friends. “You might say that Ken is the yang to my yin,” says Maupin, “We’ve been at this long enough that not only do we complete each other’s sentences, many times one of us will verbalize what the other is thinking.”

In the early 1980s, Maupin had a small travel agency in Leadville. Once the mines closed, she explains, no one was traveling and business took a dive. Maupin says that when she heard Chlouber’s pitch for the Leadville Trail 100, she quickly became a believer. “I might have thought he was a little daft,” she says, “but his reasoning was sound.” Still, she could not have imagined just how much the race would grow. “It has been successful and powerful beyond my wildest dreams,” she says.

“Ken is beyond unique,” says Maupin. “There has never been anyone like him and there never will be. He’s a dreamer. He’s a schemer. He’s complicated. He’s a little ‘old school’. He is truly a man to match these magnificent mountains we inhabit.”

Maupin’s role in the Leadville Trail 100 has covered all facets—from hand-typing envelopes containing entry forms in the 1980s, to coordinating the mind-numbing logistics (try to imagine doing that before the advent of computers). “Merilee was the one who made racers, pacers, crews all part of the Leadville Trail 100 family,” says Chlouber. Also, since the race’s inception, Maupin has greeted runners at the finish line with a medal and the heartiest welcome back to town after their long journeys. Some quick math estimates that she has hugged nearly 4,500 sweaty, smelly, salt-streaked finishers over the years.

“She cries like a baby,” says Chlouber, describing Maupin’s finish-line ritual.

A Soft Spot

There exists a sensitive part of Chlouber that’s not difficult to see if you know where to look. And the best place to see it is anywhere around his race.

One Leadville runner in 2005, Giovanni Battista Torelli from Rome, Italy, heeded Chlouber’s pep-rally words and refused to quit. With several hundred people gathered at the finish line—as is always the case during the race’s final inspiring hours—Torelli crested the final hill and came into view, still with two blocks left to run. The race clock showed only minutes remaining before the 30-hour cut-off. Fans shook their heads—he wouldn’t make it.

Torelli shuffled at a snail’s pace as the crowd screamed at the top of their raspy lungs (many were finishers themselves and had huffed themselves dry). Several ran out to meet him, even pushing and tugging him along.

As Torelli neared the Leadville finish, seconds ticked down. Spectators shifted their eyes from Torelli, to the clock, to Chlouber, who stood on eight-foot scaffolding with a shotgun, prepared to fire it to officially signal the race’s end. The clock clicked closer to 30 hours … and then stood still. Finally, as Torelli tumbled over the finish line with the push of some and the pulling cheers of others, it started again and turned to 30:00:00. People wept and screamed. And the shotgun finally fired into the Colorado blue sky. Maupin hugged Torelli. Official finishing time: 29:59:59.

Chlouber blushes when asked about the incident years later. “I wanted him to get across that finish line,” he says coyly. “I don’t know what happened … I might have had to pull the trigger two or three times.”

Purists might gasp at such apparent nonchalance (and, for the record, there is no ironclad proof that Torelli didn’t beat the cut-off), but Chlouber says it’s about so much more than a buckle. It’s about “belonging somewhere, showing spirit and becoming a member of the community.”

“The strength and courage of people who finish the race matches those in this town,” says Chlouber.

Chlouber and Maupin also point at all of the good that the race has done. “Our biggest contribution is that the race has made a positive difference in people’s lives,” says Chlouber. “And that is something I’m proud of.”

The Leadville Trail 100 has indeed made a difference in the community of Leadville and surrounding Lake County. A published “Leadville Race Series Economic Impact Study” put out by Colorado Mountain College in 2013 stated that in 2012 alone, the total economic impact of the Leadville Race Series (direct and indirect, including races and training camps) totaled $15,077,456.

Additionally, the Race Series is a platform for the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation, which grants $1,000 to every graduating Lake County High School senior who attends any form of higher education. Since 2009, the Foundation has awarded $205,500—in a county where 27 percent of children live in poverty and the unemployment rate remains over 11 percent, far above the national average (www.countyhealthrankings.org, 2013).

Growing Pains

While few believed that Chlouber and Maupin would lead the Leadville Trail 100 until their final days on Earth, it still came as a shock to the trail ultrarunning community when the race and its series of several other foot and mountain-bike events were sold to Lifetime Fitness in July of 2011. Chlouber was quoted in the news release, saying what anyone would expect: “I am very pleased that Lifetime Fitness will continue the long tradition of endurance events and sportsmanship that the Leadville Trail 100 Race Series established back in 1983.”

The ultrarunning community, which sports an anti-establishment swagger, cast a cynical eye. Concern swirled over what Lifetime, a $1-billion company (2011) far removed from Leadville, would do to one of the marquee events of ultrarunning. Chlouber and Maupin stayed involved as consultants. Maupin also continued her finish-line tradition.

Some early signs popped up that there was a new race-directing sheriff in town. A shiny new Leadville Race Series store popped up, with well-merchandised wares and trendy wood floors and exposed brick. A crisp, bold logo replaced the campy one that had adorned T-shirts, hoodies, letterhead and posters for decades.

Runners accepted the changes as part of the sport’s growth. But some of that accumulated goodwill turned sour as it grew clear that a for-profit company now ran the show. In 2012, the Leadville race field exploded from 625 in 2011 to 795—a 27-percent jump. Suddenly, for better or worse, there were noisemakers and boom boxes playing “Eye of the Tiger” during the early miles. The turnaround point of Winfield resembled a Denver Broncos game tailgate party. Then, in 2013, the number of starters jumped another 19 percent to 943, arguably past the course’s breaking point. Locals even grumbled. A town-hall meeting was called.

The pointed criticism following the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 was not lost on Chlouber and Maupin. When asked if they were bothered by all the negativity, Maupin gets fiery: “Oh, yes, yes!” Then she softens slightly, considering what she sees as genuine support. “At that town meeting, it was incredible to see the outpouring of support—only one person really spoke out against it.”

Maupin explains that the locals were most upset about people changing in public and going to the bathroom in yards. Then, she leans forward and shares, “I think it’s directed more toward bikers—I haven’t heard anything negative about the runners.”

Beyond Leadville, the tone of disapproval among ultrarunners seems to have softened. On November 11, 2013, the Leadville Trail 100 organizers posted a statement to its website, in which it outlined improvements planned for the 2014 edition. And the stalwart website, www.run100s.com, which has been the go-to reference for 100-mile races for nearly as long as the Internet has breathed—and had removed Leadville from its definitive list—reinstated the race.

Says Stan Jensen, an ultrarunner and keeper of the blog from Pacifica, California, “I spoke on the phone with Ken, Merilee and the Race Director, Josh. After Josh told me they’d be reducing the starting field to less than 850 and after he spoke with the Wasatch Front and Grand Slam committees, I added Leadville back to my site.”

For now, it seems that Leadville will continue, albeit with a smaller field than 2013, some clearly defined constraints and perhaps a keener sense by Lifetime Fitness for the life-changing importance and transformative potential of the event.

“This is the same operation it was 30 years ago,” says Chlouber. He and Maupin explain that the spirit of the race remains the same and a relatively simple change in ownership can’t take that away. The two stay involved and say that they are never far off. Now, as the race grows up, they play the role of the dutiful parents giving their grown-up child enough room to roam freely, while keeping one eye out to make sure she doesn’t go too far astray.

Immortal Defiance

The Leadville Trail 100 has launched a new ad campaign, apparently as an effort to reassure people that it’s true to its roots. The ads feature photos of Chlouber—in one of them, he wields a shotgun. The formula should work for this history-laden trail race and the message is clear: even as the race looks toward a bright future under new ownership, it won’t forget its humble roots. Whether that’s truth or merely marketing spin will shake out soon enough. Still, one can bet that Chlouber will have a say in the matter.

At the same time, it is apparent that Chlouber is moving on. He is 75 now, but says, “Well, I’ll be damned if I’m just gonna saddle up and ride off into the sunset.”

Chlouber shares his new audacious goal: to summit one of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks—perhaps Everest or Cho Oyu this fall. “I would become the oldest American to do so,” he says. “And hopefully that (accomplishment) would translate to, ‘If I can, so can you.’” Chlouber, with the passion that fueled his belief that somebody could run 100 miles two miles above sea level, shares his belief that “far too many people use age as an excuse.”

Just try to tell Chlouber that he can’t do it, that it’s not possible—you will join a lifelong list of people who have been proven wrong.

Garett Graubins has limped into Merilee Maupin’s waiting arms in completing five Leadville Trail 100s. Ken, on the other hand, has yet to hug him. This article originally appeared in our June 2014 issue.

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