For many living in Boulder, Memorial Day has been, for the past 42 years, intimately associated with the Bolder Boulder 10K. It is hard to miss this 50,000-plus road race through the streets of Middle Boulder (kind of like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, except that the Hobbits, Elves, Orcs and Trolls are here replaced by software engineers sporting manbuns and carrying magical tools such as Macbook Pros).
Even non-runners not knowing the difference between a 10K and a 401K would stop exactly at noon every Memorial Day and stare up in the sky, entranced along with thousands of fans in Folsom Field to watch the flyover of F-16 Falcons, conducted by Colorado Air National Guard’s 140th Fighter Squadron, part of the moving stadium tribute to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military.
But not this Memorial Day. Because of the COVID pandemic, all gatherings in the state have been canceled, with the Bolder Boulder rescheduled for Labor Day, to be run in conjunction with the FORTitude 10K in Fort Collins. However, race director Cliff Bosley has come up with a plan that allows running and Memorial Day to keep their traditional link by organizing the first VirtuALL 10K.
“It’s a way for us to be running separately, and still be together,” Bosley said during a Thursday interview.
The VirtuALL 10K is not a replacement for the Bolder Boulder, added Bosley, but rather an addition to it, a way to do something running related on Memorial Day. The VirtuALL 10K is free, and is being put on in partnership with the popular route-tracking app Strava. Participants have the option of purchasing a special edition t-shirt or cap, with $5 of each sale going to the Colorado COVID Relief Fund.
“Maybe for me the tradition of running on Memorial Day is why this virtual race is important,” said Bosley, who raced the 1979 inaugural Bolder Boulder at age 12. “It just doesn’t seem right not to do something running related on Memorial Day. I don’t recall what my family did before 1979 on Memorial Day, but I can picture every Memorial Day since.”
As always, honoring the military will be a part of this year’s event. A 20-minute tribute is planned, with the playing of taps, to be shown on the Bolder Facebook page. Bosley added that the VirtuALL 10K is a natural fit with the Military Base Race the Bolder Boulder sponsors each Memorial Day on overseas military bases. This year, six bases in the Middle East will host their version of the race. The servicemen and servicewomen are already accustomed to racing remotely, Bosley said. And now the rest of us can join them, including runners from all 50 states and nine countries.
“A tradition for many who run the Bolder Boulder in person is their presence and engagement with Memorial Day,” said Bosley. “While we will not be able to convene in Folsom Field, there will still be some of those same elements to honor the service of the men and women who gave their lives in service to the country.”
As of Friday, more than 5,600 had registered, ranging in age from 93 to 1 year old. Entrants get a virtual bib, which can be printed out and decorated in a personal way. Racers are encouraged to dress up and take photos and videos to post on #VirtuALL10K or @BOLDERBoulder. Finisher certificates will be sent out, for those signing up, running and downloading their times on Strava between Friday and Monday.
A bit of good news for Bosley is that he will finally be able to run a 10K once again on Memorial Day; his last Bolder Boulder finish was 1989, with organizing the race taking up his day in the following years. “I will likely run my 10K in Longmont,” he said. And, as someone on his staff pointed out, there will be no problems with parking.