On Memorial Day, more than 50,000 people will lace up their shoes and hit the pavement for the BolderBOULDER, a 10K that is the third largest road race in the United States and was named America’s All-Time Best 10K by Runner’s World. Runners and walkers of all ages and abilities have a blast at this community event that is part serious, part spectacle. As you pass the dizzying array of entertainment and thousands of spectators along the course, you’ll barely have time to notice your breathing—more likely you’ll be smiling and laughing the whole way.
Whether you’re shooting for a personal best or haven’t run in years, you can make the most of the BolderBOULDER by getting your ducks in a row ahead of time. Here are some tips to help you prepare.
1. Register Early
Avoid paying a procrastination price by registering early. You can register online or in-person. When you register, you’ll need to pick a wave. The start is divided into more than 90 separate groups in order to lump together people who are likely to race at about the same speed. To get into a faster wave, you’ll need to submit a qualifying time from another race. If you don’t have that, guesstimate a finishing time and race organizers will put you in the appropriate wave.
If you register online, remember to pick up your race packet before the race. Don’t leave this until the last minute unless you want to wait in line.
2. Get Out and Run
It’s a good idea to get some running miles under your feet so your body doesn’t go into shock on race day. If you’re not in great shape, or you have goals for the race, a training program can be just the kick in the pants you need. Ten weeks is the ideal amount of time to prep.
With the help of Revolution Running and FastForward Sports, the BolderBOULDER has developed two 10-week training programs—one for those coming off the couch, the other for intermediates. Download the details and mark your calendar.
If you have trouble motivating on your own, consider a coaching program. FastForward Sports offers a nine-week Spring RUN program that includes group workouts and personalized coaching tips.
The most important thing when it comes to training is consistency, according to Tim O’Brien, the owner of FastForward Sports and a coach. “Make sure you get out at least three times a week and try to make that part of your schedule,” he says.
It also helps to run the course in advance so you know what to expect and how to pace yourself.
3. Do a Practice Race
Build a 5K into your training so you can go through the motions of a race before the BolderBOULDER. If you’re doing a 10-week training program, then find a race in late April or early May. Consider the Cherry Creek Sneak or one of six races in the Without Limits Dash & Dine 5K Series. You can use these as qualifiers to get into a faster BolderBOULDER wave.
For other options, search the race listings at Running in the USA to find an event that works for you.
4. Make it Fun for Kids
The BolderBOULDER is a great family affair, no matter how old your kids. Keep in mind that strollers aren’t allowed, so you have to carry their kids if they’re too young to hoof it on their own.
Amy Hubbard, a Boulder mother of 11-year-old twins, has been doing the race with her kids since they were in utero. When the tiny tots were too young to walk, Hubbard and her husband toted them in Baby Bjorns. When the boys got older, the family eased into speed, first walking the race, then completing it with a combo of walking and running, and finally running the whole course when the kids were nine.
Now that her kids are older, Hubbard says the best motivator for them is friends, so they team up with other families to do the race.
Another tip: sign up for a slower wave so your kids are motivated by passing people rather than feeling like they’re being left in the dust. Just make sure you start early enough to finish before the cutoff time. Racers have to pass Folsom and Arapahoe by 11:30 am and finish by 11:45 am in order to make way for the pros.
When it comes to prep, training can be tedious for kids. Hubbard says they get fit by playing soccer and hiking rather than running. Her sons also participate in the BB Racers Club, which helps kids at Boulder Valley Schools prepare for the race.
Stephanie Winslow, marketing communications manager for the BolderBOULDER, says, “Keep it fun and light so kids will enjoy the experience and hopefully make running part of their lives for many years to come.”
5. Consider Donning a Costume
Costumes add to the festive atmosphere. Ryan Van Duzer, a Boulder personality who has been doing the BolderBOULDER since he was six, dresses in a Captain USA suit for the race. His advice for choosing a costume? “You don't wanna wear anything hot. And you gotta be functional so you can still run and fly through the slip n slides!”
For safety's sake, race organizers say costumes can’t extend beyond your body, so leave the long tail or centipede suit at home.
6. Get to the Starting Line
Parking can be a bit of a cluster, so avoid it if you can. Take the bus or ride your bike to the start at 30th and Walnut. Or get someone to drop you off on westbound Arapahoe between 30th and 38th streets, or the northbound 28th Street Frontage Road.
If you’re dead set on driving your car, try your luck at nabbing one of the few parking spots at the start, or head for the University of Colorado lot on Regent Drive near the stadium.
Plan to get to the start 45 minutes to an hour in advance so you have time to use the bathroom, stash your belongings in a FedEx mobile locker (which will be delivered to the finish), warm up, and find your wave.
If you park your bike or car at the start, then hop the bus back after the race. It picks up at 18th and Euclid.
7. Bring Blinders
One of the most common mistakes racers make is charging too fast out of the gate. The energy at the BolderBOULDER starting line is electric, and people tend to get excited and start the race at an unsustainable pace. O’Brien advises to take it easy. “Try to settle down and not worry about what other people are doing and how fast they’re running,” he says. “Pretend you have blinders on.”
8. Prepare to Be Entertained
Bands, belly dancers, water hoses, drummers, and thousands of spectators cheering you on—the entertainment along the course is a big part of what makes the BolderBOULDER so fun. You barely go 100 yards without another source of distraction. Look for Elvis at Valmont and Folsom, dive through the slip ’n slide just after Columbine Elementary, and listen for a cluster of bands to motivate you up the hill along 13th Street.
9. Save Some Pep for the Final Hill
The hardest part of the course is the final push up Folsom to get to the stadium. Anticipate it and save some gas in the tank to get you up that last climb. “Kilometers 7-9 leading up to the hill are mostly downhill, so use this opportunity to relax and take it easy before you hit it,” says Winslow.
The best way to push through the final pain is to remind yourself that you’re nearly there—all you have to do is get up that hill and then you’ll be inspired by the crowds in the stadium as you do your final lap.
10. Plan to Stick around at the Finish
After huffing up the final hill, you enter the University of Colorado stadium to the encouraging cheers of those who finished before you. The energy of the crowd will propel you around the stadium as you make a lap to the finish line.
Grab your celebratory beer and settle into the stands to watch the pro racers finish. If you want to meet up with friends, make a plan in advance because the scene is a bit of a zoo. Stick around for the Memorial Day Tribute, which includes parachuters that drop into the stadium, and a fighter jet flyover that will send vibrations all the way through to your toes.