There was a great debate on the Facebook Marathon Maniacs page about this race. Because the events included a half marathon, full marathon, and 50k, Race Director Bill Morton decided to give all the races a 9 hour time limit. His perfectly logical reasoning was that, since he and his volunteers would be there for the 50k people anyhow, why not let anyone who needed the extra time take as long as they needed, up to 9 hours. For some reason this generous time limit aroused the ire of some runners who proclaimed that people who needed that long to complete a marathon were not really and truly marathoners, etc. etc. Walkers have heard all these silly arguments before, and many runners quickly came to the defense of slower racers who very much appreciated the longer limit.
Because I like to support walker-friendly races, I signed up for the marathon. I was not disappointed. The race had lots of positives and almost no negatives. Our flight to Denver was uneventful, although we did have an unusual passenger sitting in the row in front of us. I kept hearing ‘quack, quack, quack’ during the trip but thought it was a dog or cat with throat problem. Turns out it was the Aflac duck, housed in a crate, who was traveling with his human handler to a photo shoot at a Denver hotel and a visit to a children’s hospital. Now the quacking made sense.
After retrieving our bags and rental car, we drove to Adams County Regional Park in nearby Brighton just northwest of the airport to scout out the race site. The course is a 1.31 loop around scenic Mann-Nyholt Lake. Terrain is primarily packed dirt covered by small pebbles and scree, with a short section of cement, some grass, and a few wooden bridges. There are no large rocks or roots. I wore gaiters but left the trail shoes at home; regular running shoes worked fine. The RD had mentioned this on the website so I was prepared.
After checking out the race venue, we drove to the new Holiday Inn Express in Thornton, another close-by suburb. The Holiday inn was the host hotel and offered a discounted rate to racers. We checked in and then stopped at Parry’s pizza restaurant for a light lunch. Since packet pickup did not start until 6 pm, we had time to relax back at the hotel. The website didn’t mention whether it was possible to get our bib and shoe chip on race morning, and I could have asked, but we had no problem finding Road Runner Sports in Westminster, another small suburb about 7 ½ miles from the hotel.
In a way it was lucky for me that we went to the running store that evening. Not only did I get a bag with my bib, chip, a beverage glass, and some snack candies, but I also WON a gift certificate for $120 which I promptly used to buy a pair of Mizuno Wave running shoes. I hardly ever win anything so this was a pleasant surprise.
Back at the hotel, I managed to get several hours of sleep and woke refreshed if a bit early. I had once again forgotten to change the time zone on my IPhone alarm, so I woke up 2 hours before I needed to. Since the race was set to start at 6 am, we drove to the park around 5:15 and waited in the car with the heater running. It was COLD, about 40 degrees, so I wore several jackets over my shirt, Maniac singlet, and mesh vest. It was supposed to be warm and sunny later in the day so I anticipated shedding clothes and donning sunglasses as needed. That indeed was the case. The course had a couple of rudimentary restrooms plus 4 porta potties. As the temperature rose, I took off more and more clothes, until I ended up in just my singlet and vest.
The race began on time and we all took off around the lake. Half marathoners had to do 10 laps, full marathoners 20 laps, and ultrarunners 24 laps. Twenty laps seemed overwhelming so I divided the task into 4 sets of 5 laps each, bargaining with myself that I would eat a snack or walk at a more leisurely pace on each 5th loop. In that fashion, I managed to deal with otherwise monotonous circuits. The faster runners zipped by me and by noon, most of them had finished and left. The few people who remained were either walking like me or were struggling through the ultra. I was sure I’d be last (and that was fine with me) but it turned out that there were a few others who were also on the slower side.
The course was marked with small red flags at every possible turn and it took just one loop for me to feel confident I would not get lost. The restrooms and porta potties were right on the course. My only problem was the altitude. The park is 5109 feet above sea level and a flatlander like myself could really feel the thin air. I had a little trouble at first catching my breath; running even a tiny bit down the only ‘hill’ on the course would be impossible for me.
The one aid station we passed on every loop was exceedingly well-stocked with all kinds of goodies, but since I had brought energy bars, peanut butter crackers, and pretzels with me, I only slowed down to get some water or drop off my clothes. The volunteers were terrific, especially Skip, who stayed by the timing mat the entire time and cheered me on every time I passed by.
I’ve mentioned before that for some strange reason I can go around and around a 1-3 mile loop for 24 hours or longer, but if I have to go around a similar course for a marathon, I get dizzy and bored. Finishing becomes a mental challenge. Twenty laps on this course was indeed a challenge, but the easy terrain, camaraderie of racers, and peaceful atmosphere made the race more pleasurable than I would have anticipated. I chatted with James Alexander, Ed Broadnax, Alison Black, and Susan Rozanski. Almost everyone put their names on their backs so runners could cheer you on as they passed. I finished in 6:36:28, received my medal of a little scissors on a colorful lanyard, and a blue beanie. There was chocolate milk (hooray!) and a variety of bagels as well as several kinds of chili and other foods. The RD made sure to ask every finisher’s opinion of the race and encouraged us to give him suggestions to improve the race. I told him the race is fine as it is – unless he could make it a bit warmer at the start.
This is a small race, with 34 half marathoners, 19 full, and 7 who did the ultra. I am sure it will grow in popularity but ideally will retain its friendly intimate character. Definitely recommended for walkers.