COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.— A brief guide to Baxter identification:
Appearance: Six-foot-tallish, silvery hair, late 50s, Newman-blue eyes, limbs taut as branches.
Habitat: Manitou Incline. Pikes Peak. Any of the state's great mountain trails, competitive runs or cycling events.
What to look for: The guy passing you. Then the guy who looks just like him passing you.
Distinguishing between Eddie and Fred Baxter, who are identical twins, requires a bit more attention to detail — even for friends of the super-athletic brothers.
"Fred falls with one foot, Eddie with two. That's how you tell the difference between them," said their friend and running buddy Mike Everson, 48, referring to an ankle injury Fred suffered at work about 25 years ago that left him with a slight limp.
Born in Germany to a military family, the Baxters moved to Colorado at an early age. Now 59, they own Baxter Brothers Construction, a framing company, and live about three miles from each other in Widefield, in houses they built themselves. Fred is married; Eddie, who's 10 minutes older, is single.
Both brothers ran cross country and track in high school, and though they stayed active, didn't get serious about athletics again until well into adulthood.
Patrick Naughton, 58, met Fred about 20 years ago, climbing Mount Harvard. Fred introduced Naughton to Eddie. Soon after, Naughton introduced the brothers to the Incline, the vertiginous, mile-long former railway bed that stair-steps 2,000 vertical feet up the mountainside.
"They got hooked," said Naughton, who likes to point out that he beat Fred that very first time up.
The brothers meet at least three times a week for outdoor runs and can be found at the Incline most Saturday mornings. Fred's fastest time is 22 minutes, 15 seconds; Eddie's is 21:50. The unofficial average Incline time is around 42 minutes.
In 2012, Eddie became the first to finish the unofficial Inclinathon, completing 13 round trips (that's a total of 26,143 vertical feet) in 13 hours and 15 minutes. Eddie also holds the record for his age group in the Pikes Peak Ascent, considered one of the nation's more difficult running races due to the altitude and rough terrain.
"Eddie's faster," said Fred, who took up cycling after the injury to his ankle and regularly participates in the Triple Bypass, a grueling 120-mile ride over three mountain passes.
"Except on a bicycle," added Eddie. "On a road bike, he's faster."
Together, the brothers have summited 160 of the 200 highest peaks in Colorado and climbed Mount Rainier in Washington four times. The second time they summited the mountain, they completed the trip in less than 24 hours.
"One of the Rainier guides said it couldn't be done that fast," Fred said. "I think we could have done it faster, but one of the guys we were with was having back trouble."
A love of the outdoors and the desire to keep physically fit for their day jobs is what drives the brothers to get up in the morning — which Eddie does regularly at 3:30 a.m. The punishing Incline, known to put the beat-down on many a seasoned runner, is merely a penultimate challenge for the Baxters, said Fred.
"The Incline helps us stay in shape to do the fourteeners and to stay in shape to keep framing, at our age," he said.
Despite an admitted competitive nature, the Baxters always are eager to help fellow athletes hone their performance, say friends.
Everson credits the Baxters with getting him hooked on the Incline, and improving his times.
"Every Saturday morning they'd say, 'We're going up, you've got to come do this with us,'" Everson said. Because he was slower, the Baxters gave Everson a head-start at the base. "That staggered start really made me better. But they'd still pass me."
The brothers are "generous and humble," said Roger Austin, 47, a core member of the Baxters' running group who climbed the Incline 371 times last year.
"My goal this year is 500, because Eddie and Fred keep setting my goals higher. They inspire you," Austin said. "The only way people know how good these guys are is because of their friends."
Though, that's not entirely true.
"You'll see the Fort Carson soldiers, young guys, training. And you'll see Fred and Eddie go blazing past them, and they're more than twice these guys' age," Austin said.
"It's one thing to be fast on the Incline," Naughton added. "But to be old and fast, that's something."