Running to Beijing

The making of a long-distance runner.

  1. In the Grizzly Manor Café, a man with a broken right hand sat alone eating eggs. He had tired eyes and graying hair and a nose that looked deflated. The town of Big Bear Lake is small—fewer than seven thousand people—and athletes stand out. It didn’t take long for a woman to ask, “Are you with Rampage?”

    The man had been eating awkwardly with his left hand. He said yes, he was in town with Quinton Jackson, better known as Rampage, the current light-heavyweight titleholder of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

    “I knew I saw you on TV! Are you training him?”

    “Yeah, he’s up here now.”

    The woman said that the challenger, Forrest Griffin, didn’t stand a chance in their upcoming fight.

    “We all like Forrest, but he’s not ready for Rampage,” the trainer agreed. “This is the most relaxed camp we’ve had, because nobody thinks he’s going to beat Rampage.”

    “I saw Rampage in Kmart,” the woman said. She was heavyset and her tank top showed off her tattoos. Other diners picked up on the conversation, and somebody mentioned the boxer Tito Ortiz, who owned a house in town.

    “He’s made more money coaching than he did fighting. That’s when you step out of it.”

    “Nobody beats the clock.”

    “Nobody.”

    Big Bear Lake sits at an altitude of seven thousand feet, in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California. In the winter, it’s a ski town; in the summer people come to escape the crowds of Los Angeles and San Diego. For athletes, late spring is a good time to open a training ca...