Published: March 1, 2015 By

Run, Rick, Run!

Rick Trujillo, second from the right

CU running star Rick Trujillo (second from the right) founded the Imogene Pass Run in 1974.

Running mountain trails was strictly forbidden for CU-Boulder’s track and cross-country athletes in the 1960s: Coach Frank Potts wanted his runners on the flats.

But Rick Trujillo (Geol’70) couldn’t help himself and, on his own time, ran alone on Flagstaff and Green Mountains.

“Running in circles never made sense to me,” says Trujillo, a CU All-American cross-country runner who is widely regarded as a pioneer of mountain trail running. “I only ran once on a track after college, to help pace a friend.”

Even before college, Trujillo, who recently was inducted into the Colorado Running Hall of Fame, had run from his hometown of Ouray to Silverton over 11,018-foot Red Mountain Pass.

“I’d been hiking mountain trails since I was 6 years old,” he says. “As a high school freshman, I discovered running and found a new, faster way into the mountains.”

In 1974 Trujillo founded the 13,114-foot Imogene Pass Run, a once off-beat event that is now a shining fixture in Colorado’s calendar of annual athletic contests. From 1974 to 1985, he held the record on the 17.1-mile course. (The current record of 2:05:56 was set in 1993.)

“The first official Imogene Pass Run had six participants,” says Trujillo, a five-time champion of the Pikes Peak Marathon. “We now cut off the race registration at 1,600.”

The event’s popularity doesn’t surprise him.

“The human body is made for movement, and I believe that through mountain running one comes to know one’s self far better than through most other sports,” he says. “It can be strenuous and at times painful, but that is part of its appeal.”

Running in the mountains encouraged a fascination with rocks that Trujillo pursued as a geology student at CU: “Why were the mountains here? What is on the other side of that ridge? Why is this rock different than that rock and what does it mean?…I was always curious about the terrain around me,” he says.

The first of his immediate family to attend college, Trujillo graduated during a mining bust but landed a job as staff geologist in a mine near Ouray. He collected ore samples, supervised diamond core drilling for new ore reserves, mapped the underground geology and cultivated the expertise that would serve him as a consultant in the decades to come.

From Alaska to Chile, deep inside Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and elsewhere, he searched for precious and base metals, molybdenum and even potash and diamonds.

“I go into the middle of nowhere, I talk to the rocks, they talk to me and we are both happy,” Trujillo says.

Largely retired now, he’s still running Ouray’s mountain roads and trails and heralding the joy of the climb as president of the board of the Imogene Pass Run. He also helps organize the Hardrock 100 Mile Run (which he won in 1996).

“I run the middle of the road now since I don’t run as fast as I used to,” he says. “Considering most of my records have been broken by young fast runners, if I have a claim to fame it is that I was doing mountain running before a lot of these modern-day runners were even born.”

Photo courtesy Rick Trujillo