For a small city, Boulder has a big and powerful brand that includes many facets — entrepreneurial, healthy, green, smart, foodie, etc.
The list is long, but perhaps the biggest piece of the “Boulder brand” is our reputation as a Mecca for endurance athletes.
As a professional triathlete from New Zealand told me recently, “Anyone who makes a living at this sport eventually spends time training in Boulder. It‘s just what you do.”
But our role goes way beyond just training. Some of the world‘s great events and races take place here as well.
So as nearly 50,000 people are recovering from “America‘s All-Time Best 10K,” also known as the Bolder Boulder, other athletes are preparing for the Ironman Boulder next weekend.
Nearly 2,000 are expected to start the swim portion of the race at 6:05 a.m. Sunday morning at Boulder Reservoir. These racers will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and then run a full marathon for a total of 140.6 miles. Every Ironman competition is grueling, but the Boulder race is considered by many to be the toughest since it takes place more than a mile above sea level.
Crossing the finish line next week will be an amazing accomplishment. But physical endurance is not the only thing that is impressive about Ironman athletes. Their demographics and the positive economic impact they make on Boulder are also worth noting.
More than 70 percent of the racers are from outside of Colorado, with an average household income of $161,000. Many will bring spouses, kids, parents, friends, etc., to watch them race. On average, the traveling party, including the athlete, is five people.
Most will arrive on Wednesday before the race and stay until Monday or Tuesday afterward. That translates into roughly 10,000 affluent people spending a week in Boulder, where they will eat, drink, shop and fill up a lot of hotel rooms. While they are doing all that, they will also be pouring money into Boulder‘s coffers with their hotel, restaurant and sales taxes.
And the race next week is only half the story. In August, Boulder will host the Ironman 70.3 event, which will include nearly 3,000 athletes with similar demographics and spending patterns. Between the full and half Ironman races, the total economic benefit to Boulder will top $3 million this summer.
Another great thing about Ironman athletes is that most of them make at least one trip to town before their big race to preview the course and do some advance training. So they not only boost our economy in the summer, but come here throughout the year to support local businesses and pay sales taxes.
Another event happening this month in Colorado is the Haute Route Rockies, which is one of the world‘s most prestigious events for amateur cyclists. As it was last year, Boulder will be the host for the first stage of the seven-day event on June 23 and 24. The race will finish in Colorado Springs on June 29.
With 400 riders, the Haute Route is not as large as the Bolder Boulder or the Ironman races, but it provides great exposure for Boulder. Ninety percent of the riders are from outside of Colorado and many come from Europe. The race receives a ton of coverage in the cycling press as well as mainstream publications like Outside magazine.
Of course, there are those who will find reasons to complain about all of these events. Yes, there will be some inconvenience caused by closed streets. Boulder police will put in extra time to keep athletes and spectators safe. The Pearl Street Mall and our restaurants get a little more crowded.
But in the grand scheme of things, the costs are far outweighed by the benefits our community receives from hosting world class events like Ironman, Haute Route and, of course, the Bolder Boulder.
And remember, you do not have to be an extreme athlete or any kind of athlete to enjoy them. So come down and check out the Ironman Expo at Boulder High School and make time on Sunday to watch the triathletes as they finish downtown. If you have never seen racers cross the finish line after an Ironman, it‘s an experience you won‘t forget.
These events are not just good for the local economy and our brand; they help make Boulder the incredible place that we all love.