Years before I lived in Colorado, I wanted to run the Bolder Boulder 10K… mostly thanks to Ian’s blog and his awesome race reports of how he and his wife ran it every year. But the Bolder Boulder is always held on Memorial Day weekend, and in years past, it was my tradition to run the Vermont City Marathon (my very first marathon) in Burlington each year. Last year, though, that tradition was broken with an amazing trip to Alaska to run the Prince of Wales Island Marathon (and I was glad I did that – it was my favorite big marathon yet!). This year, with no standing tradition and the fact that I now live in Boulder, I could finally run the Bolder Boulder myself.
Even without Ian’s endorsement, the Bolder Boulder is pretty special – with 54,000 runners, it’s the biggest timed race in the U.S. and the fifth largest road race in the world! There are 90 waves (!), and the first one goes off at 6:55am with the final “citizen wave” leaving at 9:30am, before the roads are cleared at 11:30am to allow for an elite race afterward. I had never heard of a race that had the elites go last, but it was actually pretty neat because then everyone was already at the stadium finish and could watch the elites finish themselves, rather than all of us slowpokes being somewhere 200 feet in when the winners are crossing the finish line 🙂
However, with my mysterious dumb foot injury and Adam‘s injured knee, neither of us could run… so we decided that we’d instead make the most of a walking race and wear some pretty epic costumes. We tried to come up with something for which we already had some of the pieces, and therefore wouldn’t have to spend too much money on purchasing. (This meant that half the weekend was spent rounding up various props, tools, and supplies for the DIY version… it probably would have been cheaper to just buy store-bought costumes!) But I don’t think store-bought costumes would have been half as epic as what we dressed as:
I’ll be honest – from what I had heard about Bolder Boulder, I thought that just about everyone was in costume. (Like a Colorado version of Bay to Breakers?) However, when Adam and I got out of my car in full gladiator regalia, we realized that this was actually not the case. In fact, I’d say less than 1% of the participants were in costume… and most of the costumes were along the lines of just a tutu or festive flag shirt, not the full-on getups that we were wearing. So… time to commence the drinking? “Gladiators, READY!”
We were able to find parking at Fate Brewing, where we had arranged to meet our friends after the race, and then walk the quick 3/4 mile to the start line. Along the way, we got tons of stares and giggles… but rather than being nervous, hams that we are, we started getting into it. While building our jousting sticks the day before, we had contemplated putting wine bottles in the ends to help get the right shape (since towels alone weren’t big enough), and I had told Adam “oh, it’s not like I’m going to be hitting you with it… it’s just for show.” Um, good thing we didn’t do that – because (fake) bashing each other with our paper-towel-and-cloth-towel-filled stick turned out to be incredibly fun, to where I was cracking up within the first few minutes of leaving the car and getting goofy. This was going to be fun!
Our assigned wave, DB, was supposed to leave at 7:15am, but we had gotten there much later, so we were able to just join any wave. However, when we first tried to enter the start corrals, security came after us. “You can’t bring those in,” the guy told us, pointing at our jousting sticks. “You can’t have anything that extends out from your body and might get in someone else’s way.” Although we promised not to bash anyone but each other, he escorted us out. Now what?? Well, it turns out that by ducking into the middle of a group of tall people and holding our jousting sticks close to our chest, we were able to sneak them in. There were a few tense moments where we thought we’d been spotted (including one just 15 seconds before our new wave was going to start!), but in the end, we made it across the start line, sticks and all. Here we go!
We had heard that all along the course, we’d pass people handing out beer, jello shots, etc… and that in particular, we’d pass a row of frat houses where things got really crazy. Our first sign of that was a giant trampoline runway on the side of the road around mile 0.5; people were lined up to take their turn bouncing down it. You had better believe we were going to be all over that! Adam handed his camera to a bystander, who managed to get some pictures of us “gladiating” our way down the trampoline.
But the next few miles were pretty uneventful… and while all the aid station tents were prominently displaying the Oskar Blues Brewing logo, there was no beer (or anything else unusual) to be found. So we entertained ourselves by sticking to the edge of the road, where we could ham it up for spectators, and continuing to “gladiate” our way through the 10K course. It should be noted that we decided fairly early on that “gladiating” would be our official verb to describe our movement, which was half walking and half skipping along excitedly bashing each other. It should also be noted that “gladiating” is an incredibly effective workout, perhaps even more so than running… our jousting sticks were heavy! I would get exhausted from all the leaping into “gladiators, READY!” squat positions and then heaving the jousting sticks around, but our efforts were definitely well worth it in making the race really fun. We decided about halfway through that it would be really fun to “gladiate” an entire 5K once we are both healed… but that longer than that might be too tiring.
It was a good thing that gladiating was fun, though, since Adam and I were rather disappointed not to see any of the unique/fun things that we had been promised on the course. There was no beer, bacon, or jello shots being handed out (despite the fact that those are apparently Bolder Boulder traditions?), although we did see two very muddy slip & slides that we chose not to attempt. For the most part, though, it was just a standard road race, and not one that I would particularly recommend…
…unless, that is, you get stellar costumes like ours. While Adam and I initially had our doubts about walking the whole race and how long it was going to take, the time flew by. We loved hamming it up for the crowds, jousting here and there, and even posing for pictures with random strangers who came up to us. We also got quite a kick out of hearing people yell out what they thought our costumes were. “Ohhhh, are you kayakers?” Nope. “Oh, I love Wipeout!” Nope again. “Oh, awesome – you’re from that show in the 80s where they fight in an arena!” Right, American Gladiators. “I don’t think that’s the name… it was called something else.” Nope, pretty sure it was American Gladiators. And then my personal favorite was the woman who did an amazing job approaching us with a spot-on British accent interpretation of Moe from GUTS, telling us that the Agrocrag was just ahead. Nope, that is not the right show either… but maybe that will be our costume next year?
In any case, the end of the race kind of snuck up on us – we were having so much fun goofing off with each other that even in spite of all the stops for random pictures and back and forth gladiating, we had kept about a 17 minute/mile pace. That was a lot faster than we thought! But before we went into the stadium where the race ended, we decided to stop for a quick break. We were going to go big in our gladiating on this home stretch looping around the stadium, and we wanted to catch our breath before doing so.
We entered the stadium and almost immediately, I saw that the Jumbotron cameras were on us. (And so were some local media outlets’ cameras.) Spurred by the crowd’s attention, we started chasing each other down the left side of the track, pausing to bash each other here and there, but generally just putting on a good show and being ridiculous. We had a blast, and even attracted the attention of Ian (who had finished long before) up in the stands, which made meeting up with him after we finished a lot easier.
It should be noted that when Adam and I finished, there was no clear direction on where you were supposed to go from there. Most critically, there wasn’t water immediately available at the finish for those who needed it – you had to walk up to the second level and halfway around the stadium in order to get it, and there were no signs indicating as such from the finishing chute. You had to either be in the know or ask someone who was – kind of bad race organization that they weren’t clear on where to go!
Fortunately, our plans didn’t involve sticking around the stadium long. We were headed to Fate Brewing Company to celebrate with some other friends in the most typical Colorado way – with some hoppy Colorado microbrews. Yum!
Distance: 6.2 miles
Overall place: 39445/45171
Gender place: 20500/24238
Age group place: 546/608