And it's not just the community. "The university is one of the best at letting people take advantage of its facilities," says Shorter. "I came here because Jerry Quiller, the Colorado cross-country coach, was willing to open the indoor track to me. I ran with his guys."
Then there's the anonymity factor. Back home in their respective countries. Barrios, Mota, Kristiansen and de Castella are major celebrities. But folks in Boulder more or less ignore them.
"It's easy to train and feel comfortable here," says Kristiansen, who first came to Boulder to prepare for the 1985 Chicago Marathon and now owns a house in town. "There are so many cyclists and so many runners and so many people who are good in sports, and you are only one of them."
Not everyone is drawn here. Pat Porter is one runner who isn't sold on the city's charms. The eight-time U.S. crosscountry champion lives in Alamosa, 250 miles south of Boulder. " Boulder's not for everybody. There's almost too much going on there," says Porter. "Don't forget, runners made Boulder. Boulder didn't make the runners. Most of the people who went there were great already."
That criticism notwithstanding, the town makes almost everyone else feel at home. It is liberal enough to encompass the extremes of the ideological spectrum, symbolically speaking: Soldier of Fortune magazine and the Celestial Seasonings herbal tea company are both headquartered in town; Boulder has a glut of bicycle shops, movie theaters and bookstores, and a New Age community. "When I first came here, a lot of the flakier stuff was hard to take," says David Welch, who is Priscilla's husband and coach. In Boulder the "flakier stuff' goes far beyond meditation, crystals and Rolfing. The town also offers myotherapy, yoga therapy, shamanic counseling and resonance balancing. Lorraine Moller, the 1984 Boston Marathon champion, has a business called The Bodymind Connection, whose patrons lie on a bed that rises and falls in a circular, wavelike motion that is designed to "exercise" the brain and release stress.
Boulder's residents believe, with seemingly near unanimity, that this lifestyle is worth preserving. Boulder owns a 25,025-acre greenbelt of undeveloped land and recently approved an increase in the local sales tax for further purchases of open spaces. There are laws governing the height of buildings and the size of signs, none of which are allowed to have blinking lights. Boulder is also the only municipality in the U.S. that owns its own glacier, to ensure the purity of the town's water supply.
Perhaps, in the end. Boulder's appeal has less to do with either altitude or aesthetics. "It's simple," says Shorter. "You train best when you're happiest."