What began as a family affair by banker, Steve Bosley, and is still managed by members of the same founding family, is now entering its 29th year of existence.
Steve’s son, Cliff Bosley, is now the Race Director, a position he has held for eight years. Prior to that, he was the Assistant Race Director and in earlier days of the event, he ran in the race and performed volunteer race work for his father.
Cliff explains that the race was “birthed” when his father, who had five kids that participated in community track, wanted to organize a track meet for kids. Frank Shorter, gold medal winner for the United States Olympic Marathon team in 1972, silver medal winner in 1976, and friend of Steve’s, recommended that he put on a road race instead. Thus, the Bolder Boulder was born. The year was 1979 and the race has been a success ever since.
The race, run on May 29 this year, is actually four different races. The Professional Wheelchair race begins at 6:55 a.m. followed by the Citizens Race at 7:00. The Citizens Race has a total of 78 waves, starting with A and ending with WG. Racers run in waves according to estimated finish time. The final wave, WG, will start at 9:18 a.m. Finally, the International Team Challenge Pro Women’s Race begins at 11:26 a.m. with the Men’s Race following at 12:15 a.m. Participants should plan on arriving at least 40 minutes before their scheduled start.
This year’s field is expected to be between 48,000-50,000 for the Citizens Race and another 80-90 for the pro races. In its first year the race saw 2,700 registered runners, which made it the largest road race in the Rocky Mountain Region at the time. Last year the race had 46,481 registered runners and 2003 holds the record for most registered runners with 48,242.
The race begins at the north end of Boulder, Colorado at 30th and Iris and concludes at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field. It winds through residential neighborhoods, downtown, and the university, thus becoming part of the neighborhood. Or, as Bosley puts it, “it’s a neat tour of Boulder.”
In addition to the race itself, a Memorial Day Tribute is held each year inside Folsom Field from approximately 11:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. The tribute, which is one of the largest Memorial Day gatherings in the country, includes skydivers, a 21-gun salute, and playing of TAPS, and closes with a flyover by four U.S. Military jets and the singing of the national anthem. The Tribute honors Americans who have served in our country’s Armed Forces. All veterans and active military are invited to sit in a special recognition section at the top of section 109 on the west side of Folsom Field.
From the race’s inception the motto has been “Oh, yes you can.” The mission has been to be the best road race on the planet and to continue to set the standard for road racing around the world. So far, so good. According to Bosley, anyone can run this race and anyone can finish. One of his objectives as Race Director is to help everyone succeed. As far as setting the standard for road races, the Bolder Boulder ranks second in the United States in number of participants and sixth in the world.
In addition to being one of the biggest races in the world, the race has also been awarded many accolades from the media. Runner’s World said, “This may simply be the best mass participation race in the United States,” and Running magazine described it as “One of the planet’s premier road races.”
When asked what makes this race so unique, other than the number of participants, Bosley was quick to answer. He said that the first draw is the natural beauty that is Boulder. Another thing that is unusual is that age group awards are given for each and every age, from 6 to 80, 15 deep. That means that each and every person of every age who participates and finishes in the top 15 will receive a medal. In addition, every finisher receives a certificate. One more aspect of the race that is a standout is that the race allows people to run with people of their own ability, thus the “wave” system.
All in all, Bosley sees his job as being a dream. “I’m humbled by it,” he said when asked what he enjoys about his role in the Bolder Boulder. “To get to do what we get to do, to be in the community and bring the community together, and to connect with people. We have a profound effect on people’s lives and have become part of their lives in a meaningful way.”
Also meaningful is the sheer amount of people it takes, in one way or the other, to get this race off and running. 3,000 volunteers make sure that all details, from the minor to the major, are taken care of. 80,000-100,000 family members and friends come to watch the race and take part in the Memorial Day Tribute. The media coverage is monumental. CBS4 will cover the event for a full four hours just as it has for more than 20 years. In addition, KBCO 97.3 is the exclusive radio station for the race. Numerous newspapers and radio stations also provide coverage.
Another large number is the amount of prize money given to the professional runners. In 2005, the prize purse was $120,600, not including bonuses and travel expenses for the elite competitors. This makes the race the largest non-marathon prize purse in the world.
Yet one more differentiation between the Bolder Boulder and other races is that organizers don’t ever turn any competitors away. To this end, registrations are accepted even after the race starts. In fact, approximately 30% of the field signs up in the last two weeks. To get more information or to sign up for the event, call 303-444-7223 or visit www.bolderboulder.com. And always remember, “Oh, yes you can!”
There is a road race run on the Friday before Memorial Day that has actually been around longer than the other road race that is held on Memorial Day. Boulder's Columbine Elementary School Mile Marathon, 29 years old this May, is actually one year older than the Bolder Boulder. And just as the Bolder Boulder is extremely popular with residents of Colorado and beyond, the Mile Marathon is all the rage with Columbine students and teachers.
Twenty-nine years ago Rich Castro, Professional Athletes Liaison and International Team Challenge Coordinator for the Bolder Boulder, his ex-wife, Pat Castro, and Peg Newman, a teacher at Columbine Elementary at the time, started the race. The idea of the race, Castro said, was to introduce the kids to physical activity. They decided to do one loop around the neighborhood, which was approximately one mile. The race turned out to be a big hit and has been going strong ever since. What is the secret to its success? Race Coordinator Deb Anderson thinks she knows.
"It's just fun," Anderson said. "There's an immense sense of community that comes out of it. People come together in an organized way, cheering each other on. The kids are supportive of each other. The elite runners come to support the kids. It's such a solidifying force, on so many levels."
The elite runners Anderson is referring to are the Bolder Boulder professional runners that come from all over the world to compete in the Bolder Boulder and, en route, stop by Columbine Elementary to run with the students. Every year, depending on if they have arrived in Boulder yet or not, runners from Australia, France, Japan, Kenya, Great Britain, and, of course, the United States, run side-by-side with the kids and take some time afterwards to educate them on the sport.
On the day of the event, Boulder High School's marching band kicks off the race at 8:45 a.m. The one mile race begins on the north side of the school and goes east, making a complete circle. The race, which is run in waves, begins with fifth graders and finishes with pre-schoolers at approximately 10:30 a.m. Participation is voluntary, but Anderson said the kids are so excited that everyone desires to take part. And, just like the Bolder Boulder, the race distinguishes itself from others of its kind; it has been in existence longer than any other kids' race west of the Mississippi.
Every student at the school is given a free t-shirt with original artwork created by a student at the school. In addition, every runner that finishes the race receives a ribbon with a medallion that can be hung around the neck. Other than that, awards are not given and times are not kept. The purpose of the event, after all, is to build self-esteem and community and to have fun doing it. It sure sounds an awful lot like a certain other race.