While most of the runners stayed in rustic motels such as the Van Horne Cottages, which offered a complimentary spaghetti dinner on the eve of the race, Naylor found free accommodations in a large house up the hill, a rehabilitation center called the Stillpoint Foundation, run by Gia-fu Feng, a barechested, barefooted Chinese with a graying Confucius beard. It is Gia-fu Feng's calling to teach Taoism, and every morning Naylor found him and a dozen students meditating on the living-room floor. One dry, hot day he asked them to perform a rain dance, and the Taoists began swaying their arms. The rain came that very night. Naylor learned, however, that Taoists are strict vegetarians, and after a couple of days on a diet of organically grown vegetables and strange teas, he went downtown for a chicken dinner.
Saturday, though, Feng surprised him with a bowl of cooked ground beef which tasted delicious. "I'm also the spiritual trail master of the race," said Feng, "and I know runners need meat." He then proceeded to show Naylor a line in one of the books he had written on Taoism. It read: "Accept what is in front of you without wanting the situation to be other than it is." It seemed appropriate advice before the race.
This year 350 competitors (half of them from Colorado), including 35 women, had arrived for the marathon. They formed a mixed group of serious runners, joggers and hikers. Anybody reaching the top after six hours would not be officially timed. Rick Trujillo, a 27-year-old geologist from Ouray, Colo., was the favorite, since he works above 9,000 feet at the Camp Bird Mine and had won the two previous races, setting the round-trip record of 3:36:40. Chuck Smead, a 24-year-old Californian, hoped to better his record to the top of 2:07:38. Then there was Walt Stack, a 67-year-old hod carrier from San Francisco called the Iron Man because he won his age group four times. The oldest starter was 83-year-old Lady Brenda Ueland from Minneapolis, who had been knighted by King Haakon II of Norway.
Race day was bright and sunny, and after the runners had disappeared into the woods at 7:30 a.m. the spectators drove up the highway to the summit. Sonja and Roland Ljungkvist, a Swedish couple who had been Naylor's hosts during his first few days of acclimatization in Boulder, Colo., awaited him with a bottle of lime-flavored Acolade, the English equivalent of Gatorade. First to reach the peak was Trujillo, lifting his knees easily. His ascent time of 2:01:47 broke Smead's record by almost six minutes, and he turned immediately to start down. When Naylor finally came into view he was in 18th place. He was jogging slowly with a stagger, his body bent over like that of a man twice his age, his hands almost touching the path, and the salt lost in perspiration had formed a white crust around his mouth. It had taken him two hours, 41 minutes and five seconds to reach the top, and he sat down, his eyes lifeless, reaching for his Acolade. He drank it very slowly. Suddenly he jumped to his feet, a fresh spark in his eyes, and bounded down the trail as ungainly—and as fast—as a giraffe.
It was 87� in Manitou Springs by the time Trujillo reached the finish in 3:31:05, breaking his record for the round trip, his left shoulder and knee skinned from a fall at Barr Camp. "Every year I forget how painful this run is," he said. "I feel sorry for Naylor. I run above 10,000 feet all the time. He is at such a disadvantage and he has so much pressure on him." To everyone's surprise Naylor finished sixth, 36 minutes and 17 seconds behind Trujillo, who hurried to shake Naylor's hand. "I know how you feel," he said.
"Aye, I'm all done in," said Naylor. "Right from the start, me legs felt heavy. I was about 30th at Barr Camp, but I got into a nice steady rhythm and caught a few chaps going up and a few more coming down." He pulled off a bloodied sock. "I knew I had to suffer to do well. All the way down, the blood in me head was going thump, thump and I kept looking round whether anybody was catching me but there was nobody behind."
Later, in a telephone interview with BBC London, he said cherrily, "I was sixth, pretty good for an old man, and could you ring the wife and tell her I had a good run and I would be home Tuesday night nine o'clockish?" Then he joined Stack's post-race party, lifting many cans of Coors and swapping jokes with the Iron Man like a local chap. In the middle of the night, when his legs were rather unsteady going up the hill to Feng's, he kept wondering whether it was the altitude that affected him or the drinks.