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FORTitude 10K Race Review

Race: FORTitude 10k

Date: Labor Day 2017 (September 4)

HThe inaugural FORTitude 10k is the partner race to the BolderBOULDER, rounding out the summer season with a Labor Day 10k through historic and downtown Fort Collins. This race celebrates hometown college pride (and friendly in-state rivalry), starting just outside the Colorado State University campus and ending in the football stadium. True to the BolderBOULDER race standard, this 10k ends with a box lunch, festive expo, and commemorative celebration.

Course: The course starts just beyond the edge of the university campus and winds through cute, historic neighborhoods in the area, City Park, and ends up back on campus with the big finish in the football stadium, maintaining the spirit of the BolderBOULDER. However, the FORTitude course differs drastically in that it is mostly flat with minor inclines and, if possible, more downhill than uphill. Plenty of turns to keep you engaged throughout the course with one long straight-away near the middle. Excellent entertainment! There were bands almost every 1/2 mile, and certainly every mile.

Aid: Official aid was very well-planned and well-spaced. If memory serves correctly, there were aid stations right about miles 2, 4, 5, and maybe 5.5? I recall 4 aid stations throughout the course, but it might have been 3. 2017 was the inaugural year for the race, so there weren’t as many unofficial aid stations as BolderBOULDER (no cupcakes, so sad!), but there was a lemonade stand somewhere around mile 3!

Atmosphere: Plenty of hometown pride fuels this race – I even spied the CSU mascot lining up in the corrals at the start of the race.  The bands and entertainment along the course were great encouragement for runners, and the finish area was full of celebratory energy. Very fun!

Organization: 2017 was the inaugural year for the FORTitude, but as a partner race to the BolderBOULDER it certainly benefitted from some of the foresight and planning that keeps these races mostly seamless. My experience with packet pickup (getting it from a designated location before race day) was simple. I carpooled in and we had no problem with parking in the neighborhoods surrounding CSU. The finish area was a bit backed up, but everybody eventually received a lunchbox and free beer (for those who were old enough to drink). The one-of-a-kind elite race had staggered start times with the goal that all the racers would enter the stadium within about 3 minutes of each other, which is exactly what happened. It was a very different kind of exciting to see all those runners come in so close together. Nicely executed Labor Day tribute, as well

Spectators: Not quite on par with the BolderBOULDER, but I expect that in 39 more years it will look the same. Some small crowds along the course where the people living in the neighborhoods came out to watch, but the big party was, of course, at the finish line.

Swag: Juice, beer, plenty of water, and lunchboxes were provided to most runners (beer being the exception), and there were more snacks and samples just outside the stadium at the expo. Lunchboxes were provided by Zoe’s Kitchen so post-race fuel consisted of grilled chicken, hummus, veggies & cheese, which was surprisingly refreshing and sustaining after a 10k run. Runners had the option to choose from a cotton T-shirt or technical shirt for their swag (and also had the option to donate their shirt). No medals for this 10k either, but a great feeling of accomplishment

Recommended for: Any and all runners/joggers/walkers! The mostly-flat course has plenty of scenery and great on-course musical entertainment. Post-race party at the finish line is worth sticking around for (stick around for the skydivers, you won’t regret it!).

Overall thoughts: Very enjoyable! Even with all the smoke from the wildfires across the northwest portion of the country, this was an excellent race-day experience. I’m hopeful that over the years the course (unofficial aid stations and spectators) will grow to rival those of BolderBOULDER, and until it does, this is a great way to spend your morning on a long holiday weekend.

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BolderBOULDER Race Review

Race: BolderBOULDER

Date: Memorial Day 2017 (May 29)

Hailed as “America’s All-Time Best 10k,” the BolderBOULDER regularly draws in 50,000+ participants and 100,000+ spectators. Walkers, joggers, runners, and pros come from around the nation and the globe to participate in the Memorial Day festivities that wind through downtown Boulder and end with a spectacular celebration in the football stadium, with cheering crowds packed in along the entire course.

Course: The course itself poses ample challenges, but it is not a race to be undertaken seriously. There are several small hills throughout the course, with noticeable inclines at mile 4 and at the very finish as you come into the stadium. Train for the altitude if you can  because the course maxes out at just over 5,300 feet. Additionally, it will likely be the longest 10k you’ll ever run. Between weaving around other participants and cutting across the course to make it to the slip-n-slides and drink stations, you’ll run well over 6.2 miles. However, they will also be the funnest 6.2+ miles! Bands, belly dance troupes, bag pipers, pools, and trampolines are only a handful of the entertainment that packs the course. The BolderBOULDER is non-stop fun.

Aid: Official aid consists of 2 (or was it 3? Probably 3) aid stations throughout the course. Unofficial aid is the tastiest part of the race. To be expected: bacon, cupcakes, Doritos, beer, shots of alcohol, and plenty of other junk food. In the many years I’ve done this race, I’ve seen keg stands, tequila shots, a make-your-own mimosa station, and coffee stops.

Atmosphere: Did I mention yet that this race is fun? I can’t think of a better word for it! Not only are the participants in the mood for a good time (as evidenced by the stunning array of costumes, capes, onesies, and tutus), but the spectators are as well. Good times had by all!!

Organization: 2017 marks the 39th running of the BolderBOULDER, and the seamless logistics prove it! Packet pickup must be done in advance (or packets can also be mailed), there are plenty of shuttles to transport people to and from Boulder, and the finish area is clearly labelled and easily navigated (aside from being packed with 50,000+ smelly runners). Everything occurs on schedule, from the precisely timed wave starts, to the start of the elite races, to clearing the course to give the elite runners access to the stadium. One difficulty I found though was that the med tent is immediately across the finish line, and the finish chute comes after. When I was looking for sunscreen (so I could sit in the stadium for 2 hours after finishing to watch the elite race and Memorial Day tribute), I couldn’t find any because I couldn’t quite make my way back to the med tent.

Spectators: Phenomenal! They are as much a part of the BolderBOULDER as everything else integral to the race. They bring enthusiasm and good spirits, offer unofficial nutrition and entertainment, and contribute to the level of fun had by all.

Swag: Chocolate milk at the finish line!! Nothing else matters. Well, I guess it matters for other people. The finish chute funnels runners through a series of stops for a “goodie bag” (lunch tote pre-packed with your post-race snacks), soda, and beer. Race shirts come with the price of registration (higher price for fancier shirts, or more shirts), and you can choose among a t-shirt, technical running shirt, or long-sleeved shirt (or all three!) which are super comfy with consistently fantastic designs. No medals, just the reward of knowing you ran America’s All-Time Best 10k.

Recommended for: Everyone! Especially people looking for an easy or fun 10k – this one has plenty of built-in breaks to let you catch your breath and keep your energy up! The enthusiastic (and non-stop) spectators also add to the mix.

Overall thoughts: This is bucket-list race – everyone who runs, jogs, walks, or moves needs to do this race at least once in their life. It is a quintessential race experience, akin to the Boston Marathon but accessible to all. What are you waiting for?? Sign up already! Also, I’m going to start a petition someday to change the tagline to “America’s Longest Block Party.”

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