An intriguing new one-day relay race that features exchange points at Front Range craft breweries – with free samples to be had — highlights The Know’s list of best running races for 2019.
There’s also a radical change for a long-standing relay race (Ragnar Colorado) that is relocating from the high country to the Front Range, and an exciting re-creation for one of Colorado’s best family running events (the Pearl Street Mile). But let’s focus first on that beer run, shall we?
The inaugural Boulder Beer Chase will be June 15, the day before Father’s Day, with runners visiting nine craft breweries over 55 miles, from Odell Brewing in Fort Collins to Boulder Beer in Boulder. Other brewery stops will include Black Bottle Brewery and Zwei Brewing in Fort Collins, Big Thompson Brewery in Loveland, City Star Brewing in Berthoud, Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, Bootstrap Brewing in Niwot and Asher Brewing in Boulder. Avery Brewing also will be represented in Boulder.
The idea was inspired by Oregon’s Bend Beer Chase. The director of that race, Scott Douglass, founded the highly successful Cascade Lakes overnight relay, a 216-miler that ends in Bend near Mount Hood. After he ran the Bourbon Chase relay, which stops at five distilleries on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, he got the idea to put on a beer chase relay back in Bend. The Bend Beer Chase debuted in 2014.
Enter Erik Zeitlow, a Front Range veteran of more than 30 relay races and assistant cross country coach at Green Mountain High School, who met Douglass at a running convention two years ago.
“He wanted to expand beyond Bend and look for other communities that had great beer and great running,” said Zeitlow, who has done the Kentucky bourbon race twice. “I said, ‘If you ever want to bring your event to Colorado, I’d love to help you do that.’ Last year I saw him again and he said, ‘OK, I’m ready to go, let’s do this.’ We’ve been planning ever since.”
The Boulder Beer chase is designed for six-person teams, with each runner handling two legs varying in length from 3 to 6 miles. At each brewery exchange, runners are invited to enjoy a free sample of 3 to 4 ounces. (Each team is required to have a designated driver.)
“People don’t have to consume if they don’t want to,” Zeitlow said. “They can save it for the finish line, or not at all.”
There’s another benefit to the concept: It will offer a taste — a sudsy one, at that — for folks who have never done a long-distance overnight relay. They can get a feel for the fun of relay running and obtain an understanding of what it takes to organize a relay team for a major event.
The price for the event is $750 per team.
In other running news, the Ragnar Colorado relay is leaving the mountains because organizers were hearing complaints that their course in the mountains was too difficult, and the Pearl Street Mile has been re-imagined with a new course and is moving from its traditional weeknight setting to a weekend (details below).
Here are the other races of note this year:
March 17: Runnin’ of the Green 7K, LoDo. Born in the 1980s over beers between friends and notes jotted on a bar napkin in a fern bar, race founder Terry McGrath came up with the idea to put on an “Irish race” to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The race became a fixture in LoDo as the unofficial kickoff to the Colorado running season. Last year’s event honored McGrath, who died a month after the 2017 race. This year marks the 31st installment.
April 14: Horsetooth Half Marathon, Fort Collins. It starts with a nasty climb up to Horsetooth Dam Road, ascending almost 500 feet in less than 2 miles. But with the climb comes great views along the Horsetooth Reservoir. After the early climb, it’s mostly downhill to the finish at the New Belgium Brewery near downtown Fort Collins. The net elevation change is negative 237 feet.
April 14: Platte River Half Marathon, Littleton. Now in its 16th year, this is a point-to-point race that follows the South Platte River, starting in Littleton and ending near downtown Denver at 10th and Osage. Much of the race utilizes riverside greenways, and by following the river, the net elevation change is negative 110 feet. There is also a relay option.
April 28: Cherry Creek Sneak, Denver. It began in 1982 as a 5-mile race, serving as a season kickoff for many runners and as a training race for the longer Bolder Boulder 10K (6.2 miles) to come in May. Over the years, other distance options were added (5K and 10-mile), turning the Sneak into a running festival.
May 4: Furry Scurry, Washington Park. OK, it’s only a 2-mile run (or walk) but, really, how far can your pooch run anyway? Less time running (or walking) leaves more time for your canine pal to have fun and make friends. In addition to the run/walk, the morning will be filled with doggie demos and contests that include lure coursing (dogs chasing lures), doggie agility courses, a best pet trick contest and a pet/person lookalike contest. The whole thing helps the Dumb Friends League care for homeless pets.
May 5: Colorado Marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K, Fort Collins. The first 17 miles of this remarkably scenic marathon gradually descend 900 feet in Poudre Canyon along the river beneath soaring canyon walls as runners are lured eastward by the rising sun. After exiting the canyon, the course follows a bike path along the river and drops another 200 feet to the finish line at Old Town Fort Collins. The half marathon starts near the exit from Poudre Canyon. The 10K and 5K unfold in Fort Collins.
May 19: Colfax Marathon, half marathon, 10-miler and marathon relay, Denver. Now in its 14th year, this is Denver’s only marathon. The half marathon, 10-miler and a marathon relay also are very popular. Throw in a 5K the day before and a total of 20,000 runners will take part over the weekend.
May 27: Bolder Boulder 10K, Boulder. Runner’s World magazine called it America’s best 10K, but Colorado knew that before the rest of America did. It’s the third-largest road race in the U.S., averaging 47,292 finishers over the past 10 years, and race director Cliff Bosley was recently inducted into Running USA’s hall of fame. He joined his father, Steve, who preceded Cliff as race director after co-founding the race in 1979 with former Olympic marathon champion Frank Shorter.
June 2: Revel Rockies Marathon and half marathon, Squaw Pass-Morrison. Trash your quads but qualify for Boston? Seems like a good trade-off. The marathon starts near a ski area (Echo Mountain) at 10,510 feet and finishes at 5,802 feet in Morrison. That’s a 4,700-foot drop. Views on the Squaw Pass road the first 11 miles and along Bear Creek the last 10 are special. The half marathon starts in Evergreen and drops almost 1,700 feet.
July 4: Superior Mile, Superior. Want to break your personal record in the mile? This is the place to do it without traveling to sea level. Billed as the fastest street mile in the U.S. because the course drops almost 200 feet, this Independence Day tradition also makes for a fun family outing. Be sure to stay for the pancake breakfast.
Aug. 2-3: Wild West Relay, Fort Collins to Steamboat. Covering 200 miles — including a loop into Wyoming and a crossing of Rabbit Ears Pass — this is a wonderful relay covering 36 legs through three national forests. Running south in the moonlight through North Park in the middle of the night can create lifetime memories, although the moon for this year’s race will be only 4 percent full. The finish at the base of Steamboat ski area is loads of fun.
Aug. 4: Evergreen Town Race, 10K and 5K, Evergreen. One of Colorado’s three most venerable events in running along with the Bolder Boulder and the Georgetown to Idaho Springs half marathon (all were founded in 1979), the course descends Upper Bear Creek above Evergreen and finishes at Evergreen Lake. The elevation drop for the 10K is 426 feet, and for the 5K it’s 247 feet, making it a good race to post a fast time to use for your Bolder Boulder qualifying wave next year.
Aug. 10: Pearl Street Mile, Boulder. There are big changes this year for one of Colorado’s most fun races. In the past it was a mid-week evening event on the streets of downtown Boulder. This year, the race moves to a Saturday, beginning in the afternoon and extending into the evening on a three-lap criterium course, part of which will unfold on the Pearl Street Mall. It also will mark the finish of a downtown Boulder Triple Crown series, preceded by the East End 3K (June 5) and the West End 3K (July 11). The Pearl Street Mile might be Colorado’s best running event for families, and with the changes, this year it could be the best ever.
Sept. 13-14: Ragnar Colorado Road, relay, Castle Rock to Fort Collins. This race traces its ancestry to the old Colorado Outward Bound relay that went from Idaho Springs to Glenwood Springs. Over the years, there were management and ownership changes and multiple alterations to courses. This year, it abandons the mountains and moves to the Front Range, starting in Castle Rock and finishing in Fort Collins. The course isn’t finalized, but it will pass through Castlewood Canyon, Parker, the foot of the hogback between Chatfield and Golden, Standley Lake and the rural areas east of Boulder. Race director Will Strauss said they’re working on incorporating Red Rocks Park and Horsetooth Reservoir. The full course will be about 200 miles, divided into 36 legs, open to teams of 12 or six.
Aug. 10: Georgetown-Idaho Springs Half Marathon. Colorado’s longest-running half marathon enters its 41st year. The uphill first mile at 8,500 feet will send you into oxygen debt in a hurry if you’re not prudent with your pace, but then the race is mostly flat or downhill, descending 1,000 feet to the football field in Idaho Springs. It runs adjacent to Interstate 70, but most of the time you hardly notice it’s there because the frontage road along Clear Creek is quiet and the scenery is terrific.
Sept 2: Fortitude 10K, Fort Collins. It took decades before Bolder Boulder organizers agreed to spin off another major race, but when they did it, they did it right. Now in its third year, the Fortitude follows the Bolder Boulder’s Memorial Day formula on Labor Day. As the Bolder Boulder finishes at CU’s football stadium, Fortitude finishes at CSU’s (Sonny Lubick Field at Canvas Stadium). The start is near the west edge of campus, and the course has lots of shade as it unfolds mostly on residential streets before finishing with the final kilometer on campus.
Sept. 6-7: Flaming Foliage Relay, Idaho Springs to Buena Vista. By the same outfit that stages the Wild West Relay, this one starts in Idaho Springs and finishes in Buena Vista, much of it utilizing the route of the old Colorado Relay that Ragnar shed (Idaho Springs to Georgetown, Guanella Pass and Georgia Pass) which hard-core runners loved. The distance is 165 miles (30 legs) and includes 31 miles of single-track trails. It’s open to teams of five or 10 runners.
Sept. 28-29: Bear Chase Trail Race, Bear Creek Lake Park. If you’ve never done a trail race, this might be a good one to try. First, it’s nearby (at the southwest corner of Lakewood near Morrison), so you’re not making a major expedition into the mountains. The terrain in the park, while hilly, isn’t extreme. And if you’re not sure you’re ready for ultra distances, you can try the 10K or half marathon distance first.
To be determined: The Colorado Rockies 5K is a fun race that includes a loop on the warning track at Coors Field, where hot dogs are waiting at the finish line. Club officials have not yet set a date for this year’s race.