The Bolder Boulder is a race many runners like, but find a little expensive to participate in, and which others hate for that same reason, while others enjoy it so much the cost doesn't matter much to them. I participated in the event for the first time in 2010, and overall my experience was quite positive. Here are some notes about my impressions/experiences.
The registration fees really are sort of high compared to other 10K's, but that is partly because how expensive it is to run an event the size of the Bolder Boulder, which in recent years has been drawing 50,000 or more participants. If you needed some shirts, the best deal was to go with the full package, where for 2010, you could get a short sleeve t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, and tech shirt, and a pair of Crocs for $75. Otherwise, you options were to spend $45, $55, or $65 for either one or two of these items with your registration. I went with the full-meal deal, and paid the $75 for all the goodies, and I don't regret it.
I have a cousin-in-law who lives in Boulder, and she was going to be out of town for that weekend, so allowed my wife and I to stay at her house (she's my new favorite cousin-in-law). Her house was right on the Bolder Boulder course, about a mile from the start of the race. On race day, I got up early (about 4am), put on my race gear, had something rich in complex carbs (300 calories) for breakfast, and drank a couple of cups of coffee and then plenty of water to hydrate. At around 6am, I went out for a light jog around the block, hydrated some more and woke up my wife, so she could head for the finish at Folsom Stadium, 2 miles to the south.
Because I had a good 5K time earlier in the year, I used it to qualify for one of the earlier starting waves, so I would have a chance at a good time and wouldn't have to dodge so many people running slower than me. I was assigned to wave BA, the fifth wave of runners, so I was happy. My start time was 7:04AM.
I jogged to the starting area of the race to warm up. It was a little cool, and I was wearing just a singlet on top and running shorts, so the job helped keep me from getting cold/tight. Things went very smoothly in the starting area. There were lots of people to answer question, and I just walked right down into the starting area along 30th until I found the person holding the flag for my starting wave about 10 minutes before my start time. While there, I ran into a couple of people I had seen on the Dailymile website while they were searching for still others from the website, and we briefly introduced ourselves and talked.
At 6:55, the wheelchair race started with the crack of the starer's pistol, then at 7:00, the chains between each starting wave were lifted, and the running races started at 1 minute intervals. Each wave moved up to the start, departed with the crack of the stater's pistol, then the remaining waves would move forward and the whole process of wave starts went until 88 waves had started on the course.
I was pretty focused, so didn't spend a lot of time worrying about what I saw along the course. The course was lined with a handful of bands and groups dancing or cheering runners. Some participants and many spectators were dressed in various costumes, but I guess I had expected far more costumes than I actually saw. No big deal to me, because I went for the race, not the rest.
Coming up the final hill into the stadium was slow, but it was the steepest part of the hill right by the stadium was pretty short. I just kept my effort steady and my stride rate up, and labored up. When I got to the top, looking into the stadium at the people in the stands (there would be many more later in the morning) was impressive, and I then I got on the metal grates that were put down to protect the turf, and found it was actually a little soft and springy. It felt great to run on after pounding the pavement for 6 miles, so I just turned on the after burners, and clocked something around a 6:00 pace around the stadium through the finish, getting slowed by a cluster of slower runners only once along the way.
Runners continued to cross the finish line once the waves started for a period of 3.5 hours before anyone remaining on the course was apparently asked to clear the way for the international elite race. I posted some youtube videos of the elite race winners crossing the line.
I pulled off a faster time than I thought in the end, crossing the finish in 46:19. Not bad for my first 10K. I had, in advance taken a look at the elevation profile of the course, and results from runners from previous years in an attempt to get a feel for what my pace goals should be for each mile, although the final results indicated I took the first mile faster than I had intended, the third and 6th miles a little slower than I intended. As those miles had were either at the ends of long climbs or had the steep climbs, I would later realize this was an indication that I could use some more leg strength and hill training!
So, I think before I run the Bolder Boulder again, I will make sure to get in some hill training to build some strength in my quads and calves for the hill climbing and improved stamina on the uphill sections of the course, and I'll do a lot more aerobic base training, with distances around 10-12 miles throughout late winter and spring. I did all right, but my performance gave me some idea of where I could use the most improvement and it appeared to be in strength, but my paces showed that I could use more of an aerobic base as well.
Criticisms of the race as a "money grab" because the race doesn't really benefit a charity notwithstanding, the race is pretty well-run and very well organized event, particularly consider it's size. Race organizers point out that not a lot of money is made by the Bolder Boulder organization after all the expenses are paid out, while the tourism dollars are big business for the Boulder community. The race goal has always been instead to advance fitness and sport of running. I guess I'm ok with that. In any case, I'm not very concerned about it. Mostly, I just appreciate how well-run the event is and how smoothly such a large, multi-faceted event could be carried off.
I recommend that every run make an attempt to participate in the Bolder Boulder at least once in their lives. I thing most will find it a pretty cool experience, and many will choose to do it more than once.