Memorial Day is coming up very soon, and in Boulder, that not only signals the end of the annual Creek Festival, but it marks one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, and one that has put our little city on the map when it comes to athletic (and memorial) events. That big deal is called the Bolder Boulder, and we’re getting real excited for the 41st iteration of this magnificent event.
Now, Boulder is no stranger to the professional athlete–champions from all athletic stripes, from cyclists to runners to skiiers, snowboarders, and any number of masters of those physical challenges found in our near mountains flock to Boulder. Our streets and our trails are ideal training grounds for those pros who want high altitude and big challenges (not to mention a beautiful landscape) to hone their skills for athletic prowess. And the Bolder Boulder attracts even more–it’s one of the most popular, and biggest, 10K events in the world.
Every Memorial Day, the Boulder Creek Fest ends as the Bolder Boulder begins, its long and beautiful track leading the runners through the streets of our fair city, only to end in triumph to a huge cheering crowd at Folsom Field, where not only do we honor those who ran, wheeled, or walked the course, but those men and women who serve our country. It’s a glorious way to celebrate the triumph of human achievement and togetherness.
The Bolder Boulder began in 1979, as a modest footrace that locals and a very few others enjoyed. The starting line was over on Iris and 30th street, and the track wound its way through the city streets all the way to North Boulder Park, where medals and participation trophies would be awarded before the post-race festivities would ensue.
But it didn’t take long for the event to nearly double in size, and so in 1981 the Bolder Boulder became the 10K it’s known for far and wide now. Though in ‘81 its finish line was at Boulder High School. But that’s when we started getting flocks of racers from all over, and the finish line began to boast live music and other sorts of festivities to cheer the finishers in prime Boulder style. But the Bolder Boulder kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger throughout the ‘80s: they added the wave start format, so that all levels and abilities could join in the fun without getting trampled by the big athletic stars, the pros were separated from the amateurs in two different races for much the same reason, and the finish line was moved to Folsom Field, where aerial honors by the military as well as copious crowds of observers and finishers alike cheer on those who make it up the steep Folsom Hill.
Nowadays, the track has condensed from the meandering Boulder city tour it used to be, to the starting line being closer to the finish line. While those of us who remember how thrilling it was to see the big time runners going right past our house on that auspicious day each year, it really is more practical that way–I mean, back in the ‘80s it may have been a relatively minor thing to shut down most Boulder roads to all traffic, but these days it’s a nightmare. This year the Bolder Boulder is in its 41st iteration, and it’s such a pleasure (and matter of Boulder pride) to see the professional runners; male, female, and on wheelchairs, fly by after the joyful casualness that is the multiple waves of amateurs making their way up to the stadium.
Fame (and fortune)
The Bolder Boulder is the second largest 10K event in the US, and the 5th largest road race in the world! It’s also the largest timed 10K in the world, as of 2004. How about that? Since its inception way back in the 1970s, the Bolder Boulder has seen almost 1.3 million finishers participate. Wow, that’s a heck of a lot of racers for a relatively small city!
But it’s easy to see why so many people are interested in the Bolder Boulder (which is why it’s gotten so big, which is how more people learn about it and come to it, and etc.)–it’s a challenging yet beautiful track, made up of some of the prettiest streets in our prettiest town, it has boasted some of the top athletes who have made their name and Boulder’s by competing here, and it awards the largest (non-marathon) prize in the world of racing. What’s not to love?
As of 2002, the big Memorial Day honor ceremony also doesn’t just limit its honors to the winners and to military servicemembers in general, but also has an award ceremony for the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s no wonder that the best of the best (and the rest of us, too) come running (see what I did there) to be a part of this important, giant event.
The names Frank Shorter and Rosa Mota have become almost synonymous with tales of the glories of the Boulder Bolder, but they’re not the only stars that make this huge race an important part of their schedule of events each year. Now that the Bolder Boulder has gotten so very huge, we are honored to be able to witness the athletic prowess of runners and wheelers from all over the globe. Shorter and Mota are two of the more world-famous names that come first to mind when talking about the Bolder Boulder, but these days there are stars of all stripes: other famous names like Uta Pippig and Arturo Barrios have made their mark on our famous race, and in recent years the Ethiopian competitors have been utterly slaying the competition (particularly one Mamitu Daska, who has dominated the past several years). Ever since the International Team Challenge began as the pro race, there has been such exciting competition between teams from all over the world, as well as individuals rising to each challenge.
Since the inception of the Pro Rim Race, too (first offered in 1990 and going strong today), you’ll see such lightning-fast wheeled pros add to the incredible challenges the Bolder Boulder poses to its racers. Stellar athletes like Saul Mendoza and Shirley Reiley make it quite worth it to get up bright and early to see the Pro Rim racers open the event each year.
You Can Do it
But you don’t have to be a Rosa Mota or a Saul Mendoza in order to run the Bolder Boulder. There have been special waves included in this event for many years, specifically for those who are alternating running with walking, corporate teams who shuffle along in costumes, and anyone at all who wants to register and be a part of this important event.
There are many volunteer opportunities, too (they call them volRUNteers), so if you’re not up for the 10K trek, you can still be involved with this auspicious and historic (and huge!) road race called The Bolder Boulder.
I’ll see you out there on Folsom street, Boulder–cheering everyone on!