I wasn’t planning on doing a race report for Bolder Boulder but I was motivated after reading a friend and co-worker’s report. Reading Melissa’s report reminded me that it was more than just a 10k race, but a unique experience I was fortunate to participate in with around 55,000 other runners.
Before the experience I was very skeptical of how the organizers were going to get that many people through a 6 mile course without it feeling too crowded and like I couldn’t set my own pace (not that I was setting any records after an unplanned two week break from training). Well, apparently after putting this race on for 32 years they learned a few things and for the most part everything about the race was a smooth experience.
The organization and logistics started with the registration process. Like many large races the start is separated into waves based on expected pace. The first smart thing the race organizers did was require proof of pace – not something I had seen before in a 10k race. The qualifying race to prove your pace had to be within a year, or, you could qualify for a wave by running on a treadmill at the Bolder Boulder store, a retail storefront that served as a pick up point for race packets and merchandise.
The second cool thing about registration was the option to donate your race t-shirt to charity. As my wife will attest, I have more race shirts than I can use, so I thought this was a great idea to help benefit charity.
Boulder is a good size city but there is no way for 55,000 runners and their spectators to park within walking distance to the start or finish. There looked to be a thorough shuttle system going and I saw many people biking to the start (hey this is Boulder after all!). However, I was fortunate to have a friend who live a few miles from race start so I made the not so brilliant decision to park there and run to the start. The problem was it wasn’t the couple of miles I expected, it was 4 miles.
In between the four mile run to the start and the start of the 6 mile race I still had to pick up my race packet (note to self – sign up for pre-race day packet pickup for future races). It took about 40 minutes in line to get my race packet, leaving me about six minutes to put on my number and timing chip, run to the start before my wave started. Standing in line for 40 minutes after a four mile warm up made for a rough first mile.
The actual race experience was fantastic. It had everything from live music, to belly dancers, to neighborhood residents cranking tunes, to Colorado University students drinking beer (and offering it to any runner who would partake) and the slip ‘n slide that seemed to be the hit of the runners! The finish was a CU’s Folsom Field, a 53,000 seat stadium for the football team, which was already packed with people when I finished, and only got fuller as more racers finished and made their way to the stands to meet family and friends.
After the race I met up with co-workers from TrainingPeaks who had also done the race and took in the spectacle of the experience. One of most memorable moments was watching a group of Marines come running in formation with the front two holding a US and Marine Corps flag (remember the race was on Memorial Day).
As more and more people saw the tight formation dresssed in green running through the chaos the cheers started building until just before the finish when the Marines stopped and did several pushups, still in formation. At that point the crowd eruped and it gave me the chills.
Thankfully I didn’t have to run back to my friends house as they were kind enough to come pick me up and I enjoyed a beer and veggie burger at the afternoon barbcue. One thing I’ll change about next year is to stay to watch the men’s and women’s pro race (four of the top five men finished in under 30 minutes!), see the military jets fly over at Noon and see the parachutist drop into the stadium.
Oh, and find a way to pick up my race packet before race day.