Now that the big, brash Bolder Boulder is over, with the streets cleaned and costumes put away, it is time to pick a summer race to focus on. A good place to start is by going back to running‘s roots at the June 21 Olympic Day celebration at the bi-weekly Boulder Road Runners summer all-comers track series.
The track meets ( ), held at the University of Colorado‘s Potts outdoor track facility on the East Campus, are friendly, family-feel affairs. They are staffed by Road Runners, some of whom have been volunteering for decades. The meets are an inexpensive way to get in an all-out effort at a distance you likely do not typically race, while perhaps getting cheered on by one of our local elites.
Running shorter is not necessarily easier. Racing the two-laps of the 800 meters will take you out of your comfort zone and put you immediately into oxygen debt. Each event has a small field, with heats in some races, such as the 100 meters. You might line up next to one of CU‘s recent graduates or a local elite looking to get in a qualifying time for the June 21-24 U.S. National Championships. If you are brave enough, you might want to try the steeplechase, to get a sense of what Emma Coburn is going through on her European track circuit this month.
Olympic Day is held in conjunction with the meet. The event is held worldwide to honor Olympians in all sports. And Boulder has many. One is Olympic discus thrower and CU assistant coach Casey Malone. Other non-distance running Olympians attending in past years have been athletes such as winter Olympic biathlete John Ruger (he has attended 15 Olympic Games as an athlete or administrator), Paralympian Jacob Havril and cyclist Hugh Walton.
“Boulder per capita is very rich in Olympians and Olympic-caliber athletes,” Ruger said last year, in explaining his support of Olympic Day, which he called ” a celebration for the right cause of having a healthy body and healthy mind. Staying active affects how long you live and how much you enjoy life.”
As you watch scores of children running heats of the 100 or 200 meters, it is easy to see why Ruger said the most important part of his Olympic experience was the idea that health and fitness are a lifetime pursuit, for all ages, not only elites. “If you start young and are not pushed too much, you can have a lifetime of enjoyment.”
That enjoyment is writ large across the faces of many of the youngsters, whose grimaces of effort turn to smiles of happiness after they cross the finish line and feel the accomplishment of finishing a hard track race. They may be racing against 50,000 fewer runners than at the Bolder Boulder, but the satisfaction can be just as great.
According to former CU athlete and Olympic Day organizer Deb Conley, the goal of Olympic Day “is honoring those who pursue excellence and integrity, not only in athletics, but who carry it over to their personal lives.” Conley makes it easy to meet the Olympians by setting up an “inviting atmosphere” for them to gather, mingle and chat with fans and autograph-seeking youngsters.
Next up comes the June 24 Buffs4Life Family Fun run ( ), one of the few races held on CU‘s campus. This 5K starts and finishes next to Folsom Field and includes CU athletes, past and present, prizes and pancakes. Buffs4Life raises money for CU athletic families facing financial hardships. This year‘s 5K will help Amber Sutherland, a former Colorado volleyball player who was hit by a drunk driver in December.
If racing shorter and harder is appealing, put a couple of other local, low-key summer races on your calendar.
The Avery Four on the Fourth 4K ( ) features a fast field on a flat course at Avery Brewing‘s Gunbarrel headquarters.
Then comes the West End 3K, set for July 12, after a year‘s hiatus. Now organized by Troop Events Athlete Management, the West End ( ) returns to its original 3K distance and will include youth, open and elite races. Adding to the party and intimate downtown atmosphere will be the 30th anniversary celebration of race sponsor Pasta Jay‘s restaurant.
Troop Events will also put on the Aug. 8 Pearl Street Mile, with a new, two-lap course planned.
Coming on the calendar in between the West End and Pearl Street Mile is the 39th annual Run for the Cure on Aug. 3. This 4-miler ( ) is the only Friday night race I know about and has one of the most beautiful race settings you are likely to come across. Like the track meets, Run for the Cure is an all-volunteer effort, from founder Stan Havlick to race director Yo Schmitt and the course marshalls in between. The persuasive Havlick each year rounds up myriad gift certificates, so many that nearly all showing up go home with something, including the satisfaction of swimming in the artesian Eldorado Springs pool, while helping raise funds for CU research.