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click to enlarge BRUCE ELLIOTT

In the punishing world of extreme running, only the clear-headed survive and thrive. It takes mental, more than physical, endurance to push a human body to run for 24 continuous hours or to sprint a 13-mile half-marathon and then, without rest, complete the same distance mountain biking, swimming and canoeing.

Extreme running aficionados like Bill Dean and Jeff Tiegs call such physical trials a higher calling. "It's so important to have that kind of release," said Dean, 31, a special operations captain at Fort Carson. "Just to get out of that structured military environment. Running [is] just kind of another pathway to freedom."

Tiegs, 35 and also a special operations captain, agrees. "Even when we're in Iraq," Tiegs said, "as focused as we'll be, I'll still be dreaming about running in Colorado."

Dean grew up living the outdoor life, skiing, running and mountain biking in Alaska. Tiegs started burning up pairs of running shoes even before he was a teenager because his school didn't offer soccer. Both joined the Army after high school, and they met when their careers intersected at Fort Lewis, in Washington. "The first time we met, actually, Jeff asked me if I wanted to go ice climbing." Dean said. "So I knew right away we had something in common."

The two often race together as a team, sponsored by the Salomon sporting goods company. Recently the duo joined the four-man Team Salomon USA to grab first place at the first-ever 24-hours-long race in Frisco, Colo. Along a 4.5-mile course, the four ran 176 miles in 24 hours.

Tiegs specializes in ultramarathons, races that range from 50 to 100 miles. Dean focuses on adventure running, endurance runs combined with everything from kayaking to orienteering. Even Tiegs' dog, Liam, is ripped, Dean says with a smile. "He's done six-hour runs."

-- Dan Wilcock

Photo by Bruce Elliot

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