What I Learned at the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day


Yesterday my wife Darlene and her friend Marie ran in the 36th annual Bolder Boulder 10k. They completed the race in one hour and 14 minutes. I cheered them on at the finish in the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field stadium.

I am not a runner—I love to row, and it’s better on my knees—so I served as road crew and cheerleader. I walked to the stadium along the route after dropping them off at Pearl and 30th Street. It was a classic Colorado day of crystal-clear dry air and, as the morning wore on, bright sunshine. Everywhere I turned, I saw and heard things that made me smile.

At Folsom and Arapahoe, a Denver band named James and the Devil serenaded the runners with funky guitar riffs perfectly timed to the beat of running shoes thumping the pavement.

I stopped by a barricade and pulled out my index cards and pen to write a few notes. They came out like a poem: Sun, positive energy, effort, direction, perseverance, cheers, encouragement, music, sun, sweat.

One T-shirt read, “We run this city.” Another said, “I hate running.” The official Bolder Boulder T’s proclaimed “Runbelievable” or “Sea Level is for Sissies.”

At the final hill, a Scottish band played bagpipes as the runners turned right onto the entrance to the stadium, which seats 53,613. It was filling up fast by the time I took a standing spot right next to the track. I watched the faces of the runners for a while, before I began taking photos and video with my iPhone.

The most common expression was an exhausted smile, like what you might hope to bring on entering heaven after a life well spent. “So this really is the finish,” the runners seemed to be thinking, as they glanced up into the stands to see thousands of people appreciating their efforts.

One young woman ran the entire race in her purple graduation gown. A guy with a gray crewcut, wearing blue shorts and a gold top, ran with a pronounced limp but no hesitation. His T-shirt read, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

The runners made a rhythmic clatter on the stadium’s metal track. A mother and daughter—the girl looked to be no more than 8 years old—reached for each others’ hands as they rounded the final bend. Three girls waved little American flags as they ran.

This being Memorial Day, a unit of 13 U.S. Marines, running in two-by-two formation carrying a U.S. flag and a red Marines flag, prompted a thunderous ovation from the stands. We rose to our feet and whooped and applauded as they jogged by. They wore camo pants, olive green T’s, and brown boots. They looked unstoppable.

A girl in a rainbow-colored tutu poured it on at the finish, swooping among the other runners as if they were gates on a slalom ski run. A young woman held up her iPhone as she ran, making a video of her finish.

The Bolder Boulder is the third-largest 10K race in the U.S. and the 7th largest in the world. More than 50,000 runners ran the race yesterday. It was spectacular.

I followed Darlene’s iPhone with the Find My iPhone app, so I was ready to video her and Marie as they ran by my position in the stadium. Big grins. I felt terrific pride for my wife and her friend, who flew all the way fromBoston to run the race. They looked tired and exhilarated, relentless like those Marines. Everyone did.

Everyone who ran the Bolder Boulder yesterday knew where they were going. They knew how to get there, and they didn’t stop. The sun was shining. Bands encouraged them with music all along the route, Darlene told me.

I saw one Homeland Security guard, some Boulder police, and a good number of civilians wearing black “Bolder Boulder Security” T-Shirts. I’m not sure what they were prepared to do in the event of an attack. There was no attack.

The Bolder Boulder went off like a charm, like a promise, like a life well lived.

Being there and remembering it by writing these words will help me to keep going, come what may, all the way to the finish.

This is a cross post from Medium

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2 Responses to What I Learned at the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day

  1. Stef Mattlage says:

    Good words on the worth and importance of the journey

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