Monday, July 11, 2011

The Bolder Boulder - why Memorial Day really IS my favorite holiday

Seriously.  If you haven't run this race, you need to.  Not because the course is particularly inspiring (you do get 6 miles of Flatirons views and a nice little tour of Boulder, but I've run far more scenic courses), not for the challenge (it is a net uphill now, but it's nothing that compares to most of the hills we run every week at Umstead), not because you hate oxygen (though it IS a crutch), and not because you think you might win (you won't). You should run this race because the whole experience of the race is something you won't get anywhere else.  There are bands along the course, ranging from people you might actually see at a legit music venue to some random family band (not quite the Partridge Family), there are belly dancers, there are more people in tutus than you would expect, there are multiple opportunities to stop for a beer, there are runners and spectators in costume, there are people holding signs to make you laugh (my favorite was during a drought year that read "Are you all sweaty yet?  If so, please roll around on my lawn - it needs water"), and most importantly, there are SLIP N' SLIDES!  
The epitome of Bolder Boulder-ness: a girl in a tutu epic failing at  the slip n' slide

The whole town really stops what they are doing the morning of Memorial Day (the roads are all closed for the race anyway), and comes out to watch 50,000 plus people run through the streets of Boulder. The energy is nothing short of amazing.

That's just the beginning, though.  Once you finish, you can line up for a 15-minute massage from students at the Boulder School for Massage Therapy (I've never been disappointed), grab your lunch bag, which generally contains one or more varieties of granola, a selection of new health food-y snacks (some of which look, and taste, suspiciously like something you raked up during leaf season in your yard), a random piece of fruit, some soymilk, and something that approximates a dessert.  and beer...well, beer-ish (Michelob Ultra).  You can get your very own Michelob Ultra and drink it before 8AM, which is a nice throwback to the ol' college days (note to readers: I'm pretty sure this is rhetoric as I don't think I ever actually drank beer before 8AM in college...possibly because I would never have been awake at that hour... but I digress).  ...Or you can do like me and skip the beer and opt, instead, for two Sierra Mists.  I don't know why I do this.  I don't actually like Sierra Mist that much, but I guess I feel like I should get two cans of something for my efforts.  Regardless of the reason, I do this every year.

Once you have retrieved your lunch, you can do like half the participants and meet your friends "at the buffalo".  Anyone familiar with campus knows this is a stupid idea - everyone meets at the buffalo.  It's the most obvious landmark in the area of Folsom field. It, however, and your friends, will be obscured by the other 20,000 people who decided to 'meet at the buffalo'.

This is the buffalo - you will not be able to see it on race day through the throngs of people.
You know where you can meet your friends, though?  At the mailboxes across from the buffalo.  Or at the atomic clock across from the buffalo.  Just sayin'.  If you want to meet MY friends, we all collect in section 107 sometime after hitting the expo to watch the Memorial Day festivities and the elite race.

Ah yes, the expo.  The Bolder Boulder expo is truly something to behold.  There are two must sees at the BB expo: 1) the Dryer's/Häagen-Dazs booth - they always have something yummy and full-sized they are giving away, and 2) whoever is giving away bags - you will need this bag to carry all the other crap you absolutely must have (but will never use) at the expo.  There are also a variety of other booths giving away things like soup, breakfast burritos, sports drinks, dairy and non-dairy milk, race info, vegan dog treats (it IS Boulder, after all), etc.  There are also opportunities to buy things like the Bolder Boulder line of clothing proclaiming that "Sea Level is for Sissies", which always makes me laugh.

Once you have expo'd your heart out, you travel back into the stadium to watch the rest of the finishers.  Highlights include the Marines, who assemble and do a bunch of push-ups before they finish, a handful of people dressed up as Waldo (Where's Waldo?), and a variety of other nutters in costume.  In 2001, the Stanley Cup ran the Bolder Boulder (yes, I saw it - it's shiny and dented).

The final events of the day come in ever-changing order, but consist of three can't-miss events: the Memorial Day Tribute (complete with skydivers!!!), the men's elite race (complete with Kenyans and Ethiopians), and the women's elite race (also complete with Kenyans and Ethiopians).  The elite races in the past couple of years have drawn such greats as Meb Keflezighi, Adam Goucher, Dathan Ritzenhein, the Torres brothers, Alan Culpepper, Ryan Hall, Deena Kastor, Elva Dryer, Uta Pippig, Magdalena Lewy Boulet, Sarah Slattery, and others that I can't remember offhand.  With advances in technology, you don't even have to fashion some elaborate plan to run crazy across Boulder to catch them at a couple of locations.  Yes, you can now sit comfortably in the stadium, drink your 'beer' (if you didn't get to it before 8), eat your sticks and leaves, and watch these folks cover the same course you did in half the time!!  If you find this upsetting, a) you are doing it wrong, but b) you can take solace in the fact that THEY did not get a beer and a popsicle before 8AM, so at least you have that going for you....

The Memorial Day tribute is also truly magical, with skydivers coming in to the fight songs of each branch of the military, culminating in the final skydiver coming in with the American flag to the tune "Proud To Be An American" and a fighter jet flyover. Say what you want about our country, it's hard not to be patriotic when you're honoring our vets in such fashion.

After the conclusion of the festivities, you make your way back through the streets of Boulder, perhaps on the Boulder Creek path, to whatever the rest of the day holds for you, feeling, if nothing else, like you've accomplished something for the day, and looking forward to doing it all again next year.

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