Make a Run For it: Welcome to Race Season

From the Colfax Marathon to a 1k wine walk, race season has sprung


On your mark, get set, race! It’s almost time for the largest running weekend in Colorado.

With seven events over the course of two days—May 14-15—the Colfax Marathon is Denver’s biggest race weekend. Events range from a 5K to a 26.2-mile marathon, and courses weave runners through Denver, showing off city landmarks including the Denver Zoo and Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Among the fastest-growing race categories of Denver’s only full marathon in 2016? Relays, says Laura Driscoll, race spokeswoman.

In 2015, 5,585 relay runners shared the marathon course, making up 1,117 teams, which puts the Colfax Marathon as one of the largest in the nation for relay teams. By comparison, there were 426 relay teams in 2009, and 960 in 2014, according to Driscoll. Relays consist of five legs—each ranging from 3.7 miles to 6.4 miles. “I think corporations are increasingly taking responsibility for health and wellness,” Driscoll says.

With that, more companies are rallying their employees to participate in the marathon relay—a win for fitness in the workplace. Kaiser Permanente, the race sponsor, has entered as many as 15 relay teams.

The race features 25 relay divisions, including health care, construction, education, accounting and law. Restaurants and breweries and military divisions are among the newest.

We caught up with Colorado running coach Jenni Nettik for some training advice, especially for rookie marathon runners. Nettik, who started running in first grade when she was beating the boys at recess, is the winner of the 2012 Napa Valley Trail Half-Marathon and finished in the top 6 percent of women in the 2015 Boston Marathon, with a time of 3:17:16.

She says at this time in marathon training (five to six weeks prior to the race), your mileage is peaking and you’re doing your long, 18-to-20-mile runs. “Know that you’re going to be tired,” she says. “This is when you start to get frustrated. Stick with it. At this point, you’re teaching your body to run when you’re tired. Expect that and know that it’s going to pay off at race time.”

Repeat after me: Come up with a mantra to recite during longer runs to help you stay positive. Her personal mantra: “Growth comes when you’re uncomfortable.” Running, Nettik says, is as much mental as it is physical.
Dash and dine. After long runs, eat a combo of carbs and protein within 30 minutes. If you’re a caffeine drinker, tea can be easier on the stomach than coffee come race day.
Don’t fight Mother Nature. You can’t change the weather, Nettik says, so pick out what you’re going to wear on race day and have options for warmer or cooler temp surprises. If it’s cold, wear old socks for mittens so that when you warm up, you can toss them.
Hit the sheets. Get lots of sleep the week of the race, Nettik says, so you’ll be well-rested even if you can’t sleep the night before.

190: Number of nonprofits that raised money in the 2015 charity partners program, the third largest of its kind in the country. New York and Chicago are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

1,774: Number of individual finishes in the 2015 marathon.

1,117: Number of marathon relay teams competing in 2015.

6,897: Number of half-marathoners running in 2015.

More information:

Colorado is a front-runner when it comes to all things fitness, but what happens if— gasp!—you’re a Coloradan who doesn’t like setting the alarm for race day? Even if you only run when chased, there are still plenty of race options out there. For the casual runner not aiming to qualify for Boston, here are five races that might be more your pace.

Beat Beethoven 5K
Akin to musical chairs, the goal of this annual event, to be held April 3 in downtown Fort Collins, is to complete the course before the music ends, and you’ve got about 33 minutes to beat the musical genius. Proceeds benefit the Fort Collins Symphony’s youth education and community engagement programs.

Urban Wine and Chocolate Run
This 5K or WineK (a 1K walk or run), held April 30 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, lures you with the promise of wine and chocolate at the finish line for 5K participants, while the WineK includes various wine and chocolate tasting stations along the way. Proceeds benefit Urban Conscious Living, a local group dedicated to education for underprivileged children, providing scholarships and programs.

Rocky Mountain Brew Run
The 5K along the Platte River trail is just a warm-up for post-race fun, including drinking craft beer at the finish line and participating in some “beer Olympics.” New this year: Race organizers are challenging teams of two to carry a filled keg for the entire course. If you finish in fewer than 45 minutes, you’ll win a T-shirt and brew. Race proceeds benefit Drink for Pink, a local nonprofit supporting cancer research in the state of Colorado. The Denver race begins at 10 a.m. May 15 at Denver Beer Co., 1695 Platte St.

Black Light Run
Night owls, here’s a 5K for you! During this race, which starts at 8:45 p.m. May 14 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, you’ll run through “Blacklight Zones,” where you’ll be showered with UV Neon Glow powder that lights up in the high-beam black lights placed throughout the course, motivating you to keep glowing, er, going. The race concludes with a dance party, naturally.

FroYo Run
Instead of a ribbon, you’ll earn a spoon at the end of this race, perfect for digging into a complimentary cup of frozen yogurt at the finish line. Costume contests and gummy bear tosses add to the fun of the 10K that begins at 7:45 a.m. May 7 (the 5K starts at 9 a.m.). Proceeds from the races, held in Tanglewood Sports Park in Golden, benefit Boys Hope Girls Hope of Colorado, which helps academically motivated kids explore educational opportunities.

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