After two years of being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Bolder Boulder foot race returned to the neighborhood streets of Boulder, Colorado. It’s been a tough two years, and the absence of this race—which is almost synonymous with Memorial Day in my home town—has been sorely missed. But for 2022, the race was back to jubilation!
As the Bolder Boulder website notes, there’s a lot more to race day than the 10K. It’s part run, walk, parade, costume party, pro race, and sponsor expo. There’s both a Citizen’s Race and the International Pro Team Challenge, which attracts top male and female athletes from around the world. There’s also a category for wheelchair racers. Founded in 1979 as a small, local 10K, the Bolder Boulder has since grown to be one of the largest community running events in the world. Before the pandemic, our town celebrated every Memorial Day with more than 50,000 participants and 70,000 spectators.
The finish line is always at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field, which becomes the perfect venue for everyone to gather and watch the professional race and the Memorial Day Tribute. All the runners finish in the packed stadium where crowds are cheering. Afterward, many people stay to watch the grand finale, the Memorial Day Tribute.
I live about a 10-minute walk from 19th Street, one of the principal throughways for the race, right at about Mile 3 of the race. After having no race in 2020 and 2021, it was exciting to head down to watch a nonstop river of runners, joggers, and walkers jubilantly celebrating on a sunny and cool day. My husband, Ken, usually runs the Bolder Boulder, so I generally post myself someplace on 19th Street and wait, camera ready to snap some photos of him in full runner mode. Sadly, this summer he was out of town, but I wouldn’t miss this the opportunity to revel again with thousands of other spectators—especially after missing the race for two consecutive years.
I have to admit that as I walked toward the race, a dark thought crossed my mind. This was a gathering of tens of thousands of people. What if there were a shooting? Just three months ago the Table Mesa King Soopers grocery store reopened after the deadly March 2021 shooting. I took a deep breath, shrugged off my fear, and kept walking. I’m so glad I did, because when I arrived, the race was blaze of energy and smiles, costumes and local bands playing music along the race route. After isolating for the better part of two years, there I was amid happy humanity. The sight made me laugh; it also brought tears to my eyes, realizing the toll the pandemic has taken on us as social beings.
I also was keenly aware of the smell of sunscreen as racers passed by. The waft of scent from people who were breathing hard due to physical exertion set off another alarm: we emit about 130 times as many aerosols per minute during high-intensity exercise than when we’re at rest, say studies. All those airborne particles raise the risk of transmitting COVID-19. But those statistics are from gyms, I reminded myself. Out in the open air, the risk is much less. Plus, there was a light breeze.
Soon I relaxed and laughed at runners raising their arms to receive a sprinkling of cool water from kids with their Super Soaker water blasters. I was also standing on “Cotton Candy Corner,” where volunteers were handing out cotton candy for runners in need of a jolt of sugar energy. Across the street a band was playing bluegrass.
Memorial Day marks the official beginning of summer. This year, for me, the Bolder Boulder is a reminder to get back in the swing of doing social, summer activities that I love and that make our town unique—including celebrating the joy of being in community with others in the great outdoors.
—Laurel Kallenbach, writer and editor