During the Colfax Half Marathon, I passed a kid who came up to my shoulder. He was telling the man he was running with how he had signed up for both cross country and golf this fall. I chatted with them both and the man excitedly told me that it was the boy’s first half marathon. I told the boy congratulations, that he was doing great, and to make sure that he was having fun.
When I was his age, I joined my high school girls’ basketball team. I wasn’t very good, but I loved it. The coach was very demanding, however, and I quickly burned out; basketball was no longer fun for me. At the end of the season, I threw out my basketball shoes and bought my first pair of track spikes.
I was hoping that cross country for the boy would not be what basketball was for me. With running, I quickly learned that my biggest competitor was myself, not another runner. And I had an awesomely motivating cross country coach who used to remind me and the other middle-of-the-packers that we were helping the team just as much by coming in fifth or sixth or tenth as the person who was coming in first or second – that we all equally contributed to the team based on how points were scored at meets. Learning early on that placing in a race isn’t as important as how you rate against yourself has helped me continue to find the joy in running year after year.
Which brings me back to the Colfax Half Marathon, which is part of a jam-packed race weekend that includes a marathon, marathon relay, ten-miler, half marathon, and 5K. There is something in this race weekend for every runner! This was my first long run since the Boston Marathon. I had biked almost 50 miles the day before in my training for the Elephant Rock Ride and intended to treat the half marathon like a training run. I felt really heavy at the start of the race and quickly slowed down my pace.
One of the draws of the Colfax Half Marathon is running through the Denver Zoo! We entered the zoo pretty early on in the race, and I took my phone out in case the opportunity for a selfie arose. I snagged a selfie with an elephant and a photo of a tiger and I was ready to concentrate on the race again.
As I was leaving the zoo, however, I started wishing the race was a 5K instead of a half marathon. Now that I had seen the elephants, what else was there to look forward to? And then I remembered: “Shirtless Firemen Calendar Models!” I had heard that the firemen were near mile 8 so I soldiered on.
At mile 8 we ran through a fire station, and the firemen were not shirtless. Maybe I had misheard the shirtless part? Dang! On the other side of the firehouse was the Clif Bar gel station, where a volunteer was dressed as a Clif Bar. I don’t know where to find a Clif Bar potato sack, but I want one!
Shortly thereafter, a group of police officers who were volunteering were standing in the middle of the road high-fiving every runner who passed. What a pick-me-up! I also passed additional firemen (again, fully-clothed) who had connected two fire trucks to hang an American flag. It was a beautiful sight! I stopped again to snap a photo and a runner exclaimed, “Way to take advantage of the moment,” to which I replied, “How could I not!”
It was around this time that I passed the kid (young man?) and reminded him to have fun because I was having fun! And if you’re not having fun, what’s the point? Running can be painful! There are times you are convinced your lungs will explode or that your legs will collapse underneath you. But that’s not to say those days can’t be fun too! If you don’t like what you are doing, you are never going to enjoy the easy days, which will make the hard days unbearable.
I was pondering this as I ran down 17th Street towards City Park when I noticed an antique fire truck. Could it be? Is it [he]? It was! I flexed as I ran through the calendar models, and then they flexed, and then the women on the other side of the firemen applauded me for my effort. (And no I did not take any photos because with two miles left in the race I had finally clicked into race mode!)
Not too long after I turned into City Park a man ran past me and said, “You’re my inspiration, let’s finish this!” I think that’s Colorado for “I’ve been trying to catch you for miles!”, which is what I used to hear when I raced in New York. Those dang “Hs” on the backs of our jerseys are like giant bulls-eyes!
Finally, at mile 13, I saw a man with an H on the back of HIS jersey fly past me. It was the Colorado Harriers‘ Relay Team! Alex blew past me running a sub-6 and I could not catch him! But it was awesome to finish near a teammate! I cannot wait until next year to run one of the Colfax races again!
Here are a few takeaways from the Colfax Marathon and Half Marathon:
- The volunteers are AWESOME. I’ve never seen people having so much fun passing out Gatorade or protecting the course.
- My favorite sign read: Your pace or mine?? (I see what you did there!)
- The Colfax Marathon is truly a community event – there are over 200 charities that the runners can raise money on behalf of, and the relay teams are a great way for businesses and teams to bond while having the opportunity to win money for those charities!