Mike Sandrock: Bolder Boulder brings connection home to thousands

Congratulations in advance to all of you who finished today‘s 40th Bolder Boulder.

And for the first-timers among you, welcome to the Bolder Boulder family, for as you have likely noticed, the race retains a small-town atmosphere, at times feeling more like the weekly Dash & Dine 5K series or Pearl Street Mile than the fifth-largest race in the world.

We have in large part race director Cliff Bosley, his dad, race founder Steve Bosley, and their longtime staff to thank for that. Instead of cashing out and selling the race to an East Coast hedge fund (not that there‘s anything wrong with that, of course), Cliff Bosley, now in his 20th years as race director, stays true to his dad‘s original concept: that the race belongs to Boulder. The staffers are the “caretakers.”

And as Boulder changes, the race has become part of a vanishing old-time Boulder, a time of $35,000 Table Mesa starter homes, a time when everyone knew your name, to paraphrase a TV show from the last century. The Bolder Boulder is a bridge between that past and the present, the pre-digital and the always-on internet age.

Boulder‘s old-time running past, its exciting present and promising future were in evidence over the last week, as the pre-race excitement grew to this morning‘s crescendo.

Lynne Bentley, a longtime local runner, mom and Ph.D., revived a party she used to host starting in the late 1980s. Called “Only in Boulder,” this runners‘ reunion brought together scores of old-timers, many of whom have associations with the Bolder Boulder beginning with its 1979 start.

It was a treat to see runners and acquaintances I had lost with. Stories flowed, and the Bosleys were in the midst of them, even though Steve Bosley was off to a signing for the new “40 Years Bold” commemorative book.

“This is not Facebook. It is not Instagram,” said Tony Merlo, Bentley‘s husband, of the gathering. “It is face-to-face, person-to-person,” reconnecting, recollecting and sharing stories.

The creation of new stories is what I saw Wednesday, out at the 41st annual Columbine Mile, the first of what are now many elementary and middle school challenge races. Another is the Heather Heatherwood, held on the same morning. These “races” are a pleasure to attend, as children from kindergarten on up sprint off in waves, nearly all going out way too fast. Some trip, some cry, some soon begin walking, holding hands with their parents.

Just before the start, Columbine Elementary Principal Jorge Rodriguez introduced Columbine Mile founder Rich Castro, along with some celebrity runners, such as local elite Laura Thweatt and her coach, Lee Troop, and the ubiquitous Ryan Van Duzer, whose adventure career began with the Columbine Mile years ago.

The Bosleys were there as well. I was surprised to see them early in the morning, greeting kids and cheering them on, since they were in the final race countdown.

This is the next generation, and as we watched the kids run and play, optimism and hope bubbled over like the waters of a tumbling mountain stream. Smiling, joking and running along with the children, teachers and parents were instilling in the young students the values that we are fortunate to grow up with and which ideally shape our lives: tolerance, respect, hard work.

Melody Fairchild was there, with her husband and son. She won the Bolder Boulder citizens race three times as a precocious teen, victories that helped her gain the confidence that was key to her becoming the fastest high schooler in U.S. history. The fifth-graders sat on the grass in rapt attention, listening as Fairchild spoke, their legs crossed, chins resting on their hands, staring intently, hanging onto her every word.

One of the fifth graders was Rodas Tewelde, a refugee from Eritrea. She lives in Boulder with her mother, father and siblings, the city a safe haven after a perilous journey across deserts and oceans. Last year, she was unable to finish a 3K cross country race; after joining Fairchild‘s Boulder Mountain Warriors, she won Wednesday‘s mile.

“Melody taught me a lot,” said Tewelde, 11. “To always believe in myself, work hard and to have fun. That‘s why I came in first. I would like to win the Bolder Boulder one day.”

Rodas was planning on running the Bolder Boulder this morning, an immigrant child experiencing the freedom we have in the United States, and which we honor today at the always moving Memorial Day Folsom Field celebration.

Rodas‘ is just one of the thousands of remarkable stories that sum up the inextricable link between the Bolder Boulder, Memorial Day and the enduring values that link us all together.

At Bentley‘s “Only in Boulder” reunion, Carl Mohr, longtime race traffic controller, Boulder Road Runner and, at 67, still capable of clocking sub-22 minutes for 5K, summed up Boulder by saying: “I was not planning on staying here. I woke up one morning, and it was home. And it is still home.”

That is the feeling I always have on race day, the curves and turns of the venerable Bolder neighborhood course as comfortable and familiar as a visit to my childhood home.

As I watched Rodas, this buoyant girl who undertook such a difficult path to get here, playing with Fairchild‘s son, Dakota, joking around with her classmates, I thought: Isn‘t this what we are all searching for? Connection and a home? What the Bolder Boulder and other such special races, amalgams of races and religions, social status and political parties, show us is that, in the end, humanity is our home.

Notes: Fairchild has a scholarship program donation page at: … Three generations of the Holbrook/Dillard family were planning to race today to raise funds for local nonprofit Village Dreams, which is building a middle school in Ghana.

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