King of the mountain trails

G. Sean Kelly
GSPI Sports Editor
Post Independent Photo/Jim Noelker

Maybe it’s just that his legs are fresh, but Bernie Boettcher doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Boettcher, 41, didn’t start running seriously until five years ago.

His inspiration? A girl.

“I started chasing a girl around,” Boettcher said. “Boy chases girl was basically it, and I caught her.”

Boettcher did catch his girlfriend, Jeanne Blatter. Now, it seems, virtually no one can catch the Silt resident.

Boettcher was recently named the USA Track and Field Mountain Ultra Sports Council Men’s Master Mountain Runner of the Year.

“I would say it’s pretty unusual,” said Richard Bolt, the USATF men’s mountain running representative, of Boettcher’s late start on his running career. “It certainly makes it all the more impressive.”

“It’s neat that mountain running is being recognized as a separate sport from other types of races,” Boettcher said.

And Boettcher is dominating in his specialty. He was first in the masters division in every true trail race this year.

“My best finish ever at the Bolder Boulder (nonprofessional category) is 53rd, but the guy who wins the race can’t beat me in a trail race, most likely,” Boettcher said. “I certainly can’t compete in a flat road race, but in the trail aspect I have a chance with just about anyone out there.”

Some of the highlights of his masters finishes this season include: a victory at the Spring Runoff USATF Trail Championships in Vail, which also served as a U.S. Mountain Running Team qualifier; a first-place finish and new course record at the Barr Trail Mountain Race on Pikes Peak; top honors on back-to-back days in the Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon, while also claiming the masters course record for the ascent/descent combined time; and a pair of victories at the Alyeska Mountain Run, a U.S. qualifier, and World Mountain Running Trophy races in Girdwood, Alaska.

“What set Bernie apart from the other masters he raced against is just that, overall, we looked at all the national-caliber races and he just ended up doing better than everybody else,” Bolt said. “All in all, he just did an exceptional job, not only against masters runners, but really well against everybody. He was at the top of the field against anybody.”

Boettcher’s rapid rise in the running world didn’t come without plenty of work.

A personal goal for this year ” which he is on course to accomplish ” is to average a race per weekend. He has already run 3,000 miles this year ” plus his many miles of bicycling and other cross-training. His average training run is over 12 miles.

But Boettcher, who also placed second overall and was the top masters finisher at the U.S. National Snowshoe Championships, doesn’t seem to see the mileage as real work.

“It’s kind of nice to move up the ladder so quickly,” he said. “The trail running just comes more naturally than road running because I like it so much better and have fun at it.

“When you do something for fun, you get good at it because it’s not work to train,” he added. “And Silt is just the perfect place to run.”

The USATF will present the award at its awards breakfast in Greensboro, N.C., on Dec. 6. Boettcher won’t be present to accept his honor for the obvious reason ” he’s got a race.

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