Around 9:05 a.m. on Memorial Day, I stood with my feet a few inches behind the Bolder Boulder starting line, ready for my wave to begin its 10K quest on a sunny, clear morning. Ron Bostwick, director of course entertainment, pumped up the excited throngs ready to run the zigzag course from 30th Street to Folsom Field by saying into a microphone, “If you’re over 21, there’s a free Michelob Ultra waiting for you.”
Bostwick does a wonderful job each year of coordinating a slew of local bands to dot the 6.2-mile Bolder Boulder course with raucous performances and fill a compilation disc distributed to about 10,000 Front Range music lovers.
There are few musicians who’d consider it normal to play rock music from about 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and few who’d even accept such a challenge, but busting out a few hours of fun covers for more than 50,000 charged-up runners — many of whom high-fived band members as they zipped by — looks like a fun gig.
At one point about halfway through this year’s Bolder Boulder, as I looked around at racers decked out in everything from graduation regalia and gorilla suits to full fireman gear and contemplated the difficulty of running 6.2 miles in anything more than a t-shirt and shorts, I looked to my left and saw a man in his front yard, just a few feet from the course, offering a beer bong to runners. And several runners were taking the man up on his offer.
I’d follow this memory with the words, “Only in Boulder,” but compared to San Francisco’s legendary annual Bay to Breakers run, our incredibly fun Bolder Boulder — with Boulderites who live along it jubilantly offering runners everything from marshmallows to hugs to bacon — is Little House on the Prairie to Bay to Breakers’ Animal House.
But this year, for me, it was all about the run anyway. An avid biker, I had never run more than four miles at a time before Monday, so while I kept a keen, amused eye on the Elvis and Blues Brothers impersonators entertaining the 2012 Bolder Boulder participants, just finishing the race without stopping — minus a brief embrace from my partner, Irene, and our daughter — was foremost on my mind.
Well, that and Doug Kendall, a local senior citizen and family friend living with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Kendall, who recently retired from his post as a chemist at the Environmental Protection Agency, used to perennially run the Bolder Boulder, and run it extremely well. In 2008 Doug ran the 10K in around 49 minutes and, in 1991, 37 minutes. I was ecstatic just to finish in a smidgen more than an hour this year.
Marion Raimbault, a vivacious French-born 22-year-old who works as an au pair for Kendall’s 3-year-old granddaughter, ran the Bolder Boulder on Monday with a sign attached to the back of her shirt reading, “Running For Poppy Doug,” a loving reference to Kendall, who can no longer walk.
“It was my first 10K [and] I actually decided to run the race for Doug,” Raimbault says. “I saw him earlier in the day, and I think he told me he arrived in the third position when he was 60.”
As if it wasn’t thrilling enough for a young woman who only recently moved to America to run past a plethora of sprinklers, belly dancers and hula hoopers and end up being cheered on by tens of thousands on the track at Folsom Field, Raimbault will never forget the Memorial Day she finished her first Bolder Boulder with Kendall as her inspiration.
“Running in honor of this incredible man gave all the meaning of this race to me,” she says, “and might have miraculously brought me the breath I needed to finish it.”
I also had a sign on my back, in honor of my grandfather, who served in World War II and passed away about 10 years ago. But if the Bolder Boulder is partly about remembering and saluting our worthy heroes, it’s also equally about what Raimbault calls “cheering us up.”
I must admit that what I’ll remember most vividly and fondly from the 2012 Bolder Boulder is catching a perfect pass in stride, and then throwing it back, while running up 19th Street about halfway through the race, after an onlooker with a football called out to me from the sidewalk and yelled out, “Go long!”