Memorial Day weekend is a mere two weeks away, meaning that summer is creeping closer to the Rockies. For many the weekend means road trips both around the state and out of state, swimming pools, amusement parks and camping.
However, for decades Memorial Day weekend has also marked the beginning of a far more active season in Colorado: the running season in Colorado. Annually thousands of people, local and otherwise, take to the streets to sweat, slide and celebrate over the course of five kilometers to 26.2 miles.
“It’s just such a perfect weekend to race,” said Jennifer Stevens, 33, Centennial. “The weather is almost always comfortable for a race, not too hot, not too cold, and the competition is always fierce.”
When runners in Colorado think local races over Memorial Day weekend, it is difficult to not picture the Bolder Boulder, one of the longest Memorial Day races in the state and one of the largest 10k races in the country. For 40 years the Bolder Boulder has taken runners through the streets of Boulder and into Folsom Field in a closed-course, 6.2-mile journey suitable from the fastest of the fast to the slowest of the slow.
“I ran my first Bolder Boulder in 1999 and just fell in love with it,” said Jake Johnson, 39, Highlands Ranch. “I wasn’t an avid runner at the time, but the atmosphere really helped and kind of got me into what became a life-long passion.”
Last year the Memorial Day race saw over 51 thousands registrants and about 120,000 spectators, many of which don costumes, take trips down the neighborhood slip n’ slide and knock back Jell-O shots on their way to Folsum Field.
“I liked running through the sprinklers and going on the slip n’ slide,” said Amber Jimenez, 8, who ran her second Bolder Boulder in 2018. “I don’t run the whole time, ‘cause it’s a long way, but I run and walk and always finish. A lot of people want to dance with me, so I like to do that too.”
Of course the Bolder Boulder is just one of a myriad of Memorial Day weekend races in Colorado as running, in one of the healthiest states in the nation, continues to trend upward.
The Colorado Run
Celebrating its 40th running is the Colorado Run in Fort Collins. The extraordinarily difficult course provides an additional boost to competitors as it showcases a hill challenge in addition to its top prizes for those that finish the 6.2-mile course first.
“The hill is brutal,” said Pete Dobbs, 44, Fort Collins, who has ran the Colorado Run on and off over 10 years. “If you run near or around Horsetooth Reservoir, you probably have encountered it at some point. It’s just a mean hill.”
In the Colorado Run, the first three men and women to summit that “mean hill” will win a gift card to a local brewery and a free growler fill of his or her choosing.
“It’s really a great race for people who don’t want to wake up before dawn to drive to Boulder,” said Dobbs, who resides in Loveland. “I mean, yeah, it’s a tough race, but you need a tough race every now and then.”
Memorial Day Run and March
Speaking of tough races the Memorial Day Run and March in Castle Rock, run traditionally on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, provides competitors with distances that range from the manageable 5k to the challenging 30k Ruck March.
Unlike the Bolder Boulder or the Colorado Run, the Run and March is not steeped in decades-old history, but it more than makes up for it with a worthy cause for Colorado’s veterans. Since it began in 2015, the Memorial Day Run and March has donated over 96,000 pounds of food and over $100,000 to deserving veteran non-profits.