A month ago I took part in my first ever Colfax Half Marathon. The Colfax race series is an institution in the state of Colorado, and has apparently been featured in Runner’s World. Other than the BolderBoulder, it’s the one “local” race that has really become nationally known. I had been hearing about it since joining the running community three years ago, but hadn’t thought to sign up until this year. The Colfax has five different options for distances and participation: a 5K, 10-miler, half marathon, full marathon, or team relay. I still have not committed myself to the idea of a full marathon, so I happily signed up for the half.
The weekend of the race was a really exciting weekend – my boss graduated from CU Denver with her MPA (the same degree I have) and I could not have been more proud! I rose early Saturday
morning to attend graduation and volunteer for commencement services. Commencement is truly one of the most exciting days on any college campus – the air is thick with accomplishment, promise, and aspirations for the future. It was the perfect day and I was thrilled to be a part of the day.
After graduation, I drove out to Denver’s air and space museum (who knew they had one??), Wings Over the Rockies in east Denver for packet pickup. This was BY FAR the coolest location for packet pickup. You entered and immediately picked up your bib and race reminder information, then the expo led participants through the massive hanger lined with planes from all eras. It was incredible. My aeronautics-loving husband would have loved this place but I graciously offered to pick up both of our packets on my way home.
I stopped by a few booths, including the Run Colorado store (I got the hubs a shirt that read “Run Commando” which he and I both got a kick out of), Bani Bands for some adorable headbands, and a local yoga mat vendor which infuses their mats with essential oils – I got a gorgeous purple mat that smells like lavender! At the end of the expo, I picked up our tech shirts and Colfax 13.1 stickers, and headed back home.
The next morning arrived terribly early. Our race start was 6:45am, but it was recommended we park by 6am… oof. Because we couldn’t cross Colfax (I mean, it is called the Colfax for a reason), we parked on the south side of Colfax, about a 15 minute walk to City Park. Denver has apparently had a monsoon season as of recently, so Saturday and Sunday were the first nice days in over two weeks. It was definitely a blessing, because running 13.1 in the rain isn’t ideal… I have already done that once before.
We made our way over to the far edge of the park near the Natural History museum for the starting line. On our way, we passed a large group of marathoners making their way out of City Park and turning west onto Colfax – that was really exciting to see, but also mildly tiring knowing how much further they were going than I. We were randomly placed into corral N, although we were never asked to provide qualifying times so I am not sure how these corrals were sorted. The first group started at 6:45am on the dot, but by the time it got to our corral, we’d been waiting over 20 minutes, with no space to stretch, and standing on cold pavement. Starting a run cold isn’t really fun, but you persist!
Once we finally got going, we looped around City Park, and headed north toward the entrance to the Denver Zoo. I can’t lie, this is one of the reasons I was most
excited for this race – you get to run through the zoo! The volunteers held amazing zoo-related signs throughout the zoo, as we snaked around the winding pathways. It was a little tough this early on in the race, as people were still fairly clumped together, but we got to see camels, flamingos, an elephant, and a sleepy cheetah, along with a number of other animals lazily waking up before the day’s excitement. Once we headed out the facility entrance, we ran east toward the Natural Science Museum, and looped in front of the front doors. Finally the race made its’ way onto Montview Blvd., which is where we would spend the majority of the time running. While the marathoners were heading west towards Sports Authority Field at Bronco’s Stadium, we were heading towards the Aurora Fire Station. After about 3 miles on Montview, a fairly flat, not overly exciting road, we turned right before hitting Havana and loopped into the fire station. Fire fighters and EMTs were waiting there to cheer us on – coming through the other side of the station was an awesome backdrop of the Colorado flag and photographers waiting to shoot. You know I posed for this one.
Shortly afterwards was a Clif gel shot station, water, and a line of policemen and women cheering and clapping. Finally, we emerged onto Colfax – the entire race series’ namesake! Colfax was wide open, and people stopped along the road to cheer and encourage runners. It was nearly 9 miles in at this point, and the time of the race when you need a little more pep in your step, so the enthusiasm was truly welcome. After a good stint heading west on Colfax, we turned right and made our way onto 17th Avenue. Shade was seriously needed because the day was warming up and I hate disrobing in the middle of a race. On 17th, you pass by gorgeous, stately homes, families in their yards with sweet signs, half dressed firemen from the Denver Fire Fighters Calendar, and a whole lot of shade. It was the best last 3 miles a girl could have hoped for. This stretch takes you all the way back to City Park. Coming up on the park was so exciting. You turn right and follow the loop around the western edge of the lake, hurtling towards the finish line, with the marathoners finishing next to you. I *barely* had a half marathon PR, literally by 6 seconds, and felt amazing running through that finish line. Would I do this one again? Heck yes I would!
The hubs met me at the finish line, and we waited in the amazing post-race vendor area to find a friend who had participated in the relay of the marathon. It was a gorgeous day, and a great way to start the summer. I am so lucky to live in such an amazing city!