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Running Like the Wind

why is a charismatic leader of a running club given a bye by Boulder media?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 20, 1997.

I was interested to be reading in Newsweek Magazine about a cult of athletically inclined individuals who seem to have been abused by a charismatic leader. The individual seems to prey on women, demand total subservience to his will, and is not above claiming the power to inflict cancer or at least the Sight to predict its onset. Further, the basis of the group seems to be his coaching skills for long distance runners, at which he apparently has talent, because his runners score well in such events as the Leadville 100, just past, and other major races.

Oh yes, this group lives here in Boulder.

That a national magazine should run such a story about a forthcoming trial involving the group - several past members have filed suit - is partially interesting. That it takes place in Boulder only incrementally makes it more interesting. That the local media has been seemingly void in its coverage of an event found worthy of national notice is both eerie and annoying.

Now, it is possible that even though I read several papers a day, and all the weeklies, that I missed this story in the local media. And it is possible that KGNU has extensively covered the story and I missed it. What I question is, did any coverage of the story appear before it was known the national media was on it? I do not know, and I wonder. Precedent does not offer solace. I wonder primarily because Boulder has been notoriously reticent to call attention to its own failings in the local media. The traditional example involves - gasp! - drugs. When the same magazine did a similar piece on drug use in the 1970’s, focusing in on the then Hilton Harvest House FAC parties, suddenly the Concerned Citizens of Boulder swung into action. The daily paper, which like the Chamber of Commerce attributed Boulder’s business booms and large number of restaurant goers to the Protestant Work Ethic, suddenly felt the need to become involved and the result was the legendary Cocaine Task Force. A series of touching articles followed, focusing in on how business was, er, concerned, the concern often displayed in direct ratio to the amount of print advertising traditionally bought. It was an eye opening example of generated hypocrisy.

And now again, with the Ramsey case going full tilt and the college riots, one periodically reads in the paper concern about Boulder’s image expressed by politicos and business people. Concern about our image. Surely, a cult trial in Boulder is not good for our image. Especially a cult trial involving Boulder, sex, drugs, and the dysfunctionals willing to surrender personality to another. Certainly not.

I glanced at the coverage of the Leadville 100 in our paper, curious to see in there was a sidebar somewhere mentioning the coming trial, since several of the successful runners were members of the involved running club. Not that I saw. I do think there was a mention buried in the story, but I may be recalling another paper. In any event, I don’t recall anything substantial in local coverage about any of this. And I should say, perhaps there is nothing substantial in any of this.

But think back to the recent California cult suicides and the exaggerated coverage that generated in Boulder’s papers, with local people giving their opinions along with a cheery photograph. Think back on how coverage of cults far away is given excessive interest and rather forced connections to local people. Now think how similar stories that take place here in Boulder would be proportionately covered by the same newspaper - if it were honest. But Boulder is mostly interested in disasters far away: rain forest, Antarctic ozone depletion, the Ramseys now that they’ve moved to Atlanta.

By the way, did you see the Ramseys story in the Denver paper where they posed as a loving couple on the cover? These people are absolutely eerie in their alleged grief and their staged interpretations of what actual human emotion is.

Parenthetically, I make a prediction. While the Ramsey case is being hammered out, either a Denver paper or a national outlet will uncover a large scandal in the governance of Boulder. One that should have been known to the local media, one that will be hard to believe was not at least suspected. And the local media will not cover it until they literally have to. Within a year.