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May 29, 2007 6:00 AM

Reflections on the Colfax Marathon

Perhaps as intriguing as doing the run itself has been watching the fallout after the Post-News Colorado Colfax Marathon. First came news that the number of marathon finishers was down 44 percent from the event’s first year. Then we learned that a mistake made the course a half-mile too long.

At the slow pace I was running, I didn’t notice the extra distance and it didn’t matter. But it’s good that finishing times will be adjusted for those who were pushing for a personal record or to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

The course length is easily corrected, and I’m sure it will be for next year. Ditto for the complaint about a shortage of portable toilets at the start of the half-marathon (the marathon start had plenty).

The drop in participation is more problematic. Organizers said they will survey the first-year runners who didn’t come back this year to ask why. It will be interesting to see what the runners say – I hope they survey this year’s runners, too – and to see what suggestions are made for changing the race.

I enjoyed running Colfax in all its gritty glory, so I wouldn’t change much. It was fun to watch such landmarks as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the state Capitol loom gradually closer and then pass them. Runners spread out for miles in a straight line was a unique sight. The three shady diversions off Colfax into the Fitzsimons campus, past East High School to City Park and around Sloan’s Lake were welcome respites but appropriately brief. Finally, East Colfax – rarely seen by this southwest suburbs dweller – wasn’t always pretty but looked much better than its reputation.

I do have a couple of suggestions, however:

First, lower the $90 entry fee. I chatted about this with race Executive Director Mike Collins, and he defended it as in line with the fees for other premier marathons. He also noted that a high percentage of runners surveyed last year felt they got good value for their money. This year that included a technical-fabric T-shirt, a substantial finisher’s medal and a runners expo with marathon legends Frank Shorter and Joan Benoit Samuelson among the speakers.

I wouldn’t argue with the value, but I still think a good number of runners balked at paying $90. A quick check of marathons within an easy drive from Denver shows you need pay only $45 to enter the Estes Park Marathon or $50 for the American Discovery Trail Marathon near Colorado Springs.

Second, consider a date change: On the weekend before Memorial Day, many Front Range runners are focused on the Bolder Boulder. If you have hopes of posting a fast 10K, the last thing you want to be doing is running a marathon a week before. Reversing the order – 10K first, marathon a week later – would be fine.

I would resist the suggestion to run the race from west to east. By reversing direction, the marathon's 610-foot elevation gain would become a loss, thus making the course faster and more attractive to runners aiming for fast times. But it also would put the sun in runners’ eyes and take the mountains out. Running up the few small hills near the finish at Colorado Mills is a small price to pay for those mountain views.

Got a suggestion for the Colfax Marathon? Post a comment.


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    10:12 PM

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