South Boulder Creek parkrun, Colorado

South Boulder Creek parkrun route
South Boulder Creek parkrun route.

South Boulder Creek parkrun starts SE of Boulder, on the trail. 8:00 in the lighter months, 9:00 in the colder ones. They don’t meet there, though, so standing on the trail at 7:50 is lonely. Head for the community centre to find everyone, as I did with great relief.

The buses from Denver are brilliant, and will get you to within two miles of the start no matter how early you want to go – even if sporadically, they run through the night. Catch the FF1. Staying in Northglenn, as I was, is slightly less convenient, as that bus route is way over to the West, and there are no interconnecting buses early on. I could have got a bus into the city and back out, but it was quicker, and more under my control, to run the 6 miles to US 36 & Church Ranch station. It’s mostly an arrow straight run along W 112th Avenue, but turning off onto Big Dry Creek trail gave a bit of variety. As a bonus, the run was pretty much all downhill, too. And buses would carry me back up, later on.

I had carefully worked out that the downtown Boulder bus station was over 4 miles from the start, but S Broadway & Table Mesa drive was a manageable 2.5 miles away. Arriving just after 7, that would be easy.

Plans aren’t always right, though, and when I was actually on the bus, it became obvious that the US 36 & Table Mesa Station was actually closer – only 2.5km, in fact. I think that might be a cheaper fare, too, but was using a Myride card and haven’t worked out how to pay only a local, versus a regional, fare on that. It’s still only $4.50 each way ($4.25 on the card). I was feeling a little tired from the run and had plenty of time, so I walked to the start of the run. No one was around at 7.20, so I recced one end of the course, passed by some very fit, quick looking runners. None of them were parkrunners, though, so I was hopeful of continuing my first place streak at US parkruns.

View of deserted streets and mountains
Heading West, on the run to the bus stop; mountains in the distance.
1 mile to go sign - not for parkrun
Big Dry Creek trail. Some event happening. Cones out, and everything; made it feel like I had hit a parkrun already.
Wide street, view of houses in the distance
View over i36 from the bus stop at I36 & Church Ranch.

I jogged back from the Southern end of the course, still feeling tired. The sun was by now up, and much of the course is unshaded, so it was pretty warm. After waiting at the start with no one around, I found my fellow parkrunners and joined in the briefing. There were other tourists, one Kiwi and several English, plus one bloke who has a similar world-wandering life, albeit one which brings him back to Boulder every year (with much questioning from immigration) and involves a lot of yoga. I also chatted to a local, who was wearing a parkrun-apricot shirt from Shellharbour, Australia, from where he has relocated his family. Or re-relocated, I suppose, given he is from the US originally.

South Boulder Creek trail sign.
South Boulder Creek trail sign.

The route is beautiful. Most of it is on gravel paths, but the start is paved. From the modesty at the start line, and a couple of nervous questions, it became clear that most of us didn’t know where we were going. It is straightforward, but you need to know to turn left before the road (parking lot on your right), and left again just 40 or so metres later (an obvious place for a sign, but they aren’t allowed to put one there, and US runs operate with a minimum of volunteers). That takes you onto a gravel trail, parallel (in a wiggly way) to the original paved route, and back to the start. Then it’s an out and back along the trail, with the turnaround point marshalled. The second out and back is a fair bit longer than the first. Neither the Kiwi nor I were able to resist heading out front, so the blind led the partially sighted. I knew to make the crucial left turn, at least, and after that we were okay.

But boy, it was tough. After a reasonably-paced first mile, I was struggling, and the Kiwi came alongside. “The altitude makes it tough, huh?!” Of course! I had forgotten about that – my watch reckoned that Denver (/Boulder)’s claim to be the mile high city was right, slightly under rather than overstating it. For the whole of the rest of the run, I felt short of air, and the slight feeling that someone was sitting on my chest persisted for hours more. The Kiwi came past and though I caught him and led through half way, he was too strong in the end. No matter – he runs at Hagley, which is a bit competitive, so hasn’t had a first place before, and it is nice to get your first, particularly in an international run.

Looking West from the trail, mountains and greenery.
Looking West from the trail, mountains and greenery.
Just a few metres along the path, another view of the mountains.
Just a few metres along the path, another view of the mountains.

Wow, that altitude is tough, though. I was over a minute slower than the week before. It is also recommended that you drink plenty of water, and I hadn’t. Plus I felt fine during the run, but running 6 miles beforehand may not help. Normally I think a long warm up works for me, but in Malaysia I ran much quicker when I only had a short one. It may be the same here. I’ll get a chance to try different (some) preparation before next week’s run, at Aspen. Runner numbers there are very low, though, so I may not have much company.

An enclosed footbridge, with padlocks on the wire mesh
Heading back to the bus station, padlocks on the footbridge.

Friendly tourists from Winchester offered me a lift back to Denver, but I was happy to stroll to the bus stop and hop on the FF1, this time stopping at US 36 & Broomfield (I could have gone from there – it’s a 6.4 mile run). Bus 112 then heads East, leaving a walk to my spot in Northglenn. That bus doesn’t run too often, though, so I had time to explore the area around. It is all very new, clean and …big. There are a few shops, but generally it looked pretty quiet. However, (as a tip for anyone without a phone that will tell you what’s nearby – don’t despair that you can only see a pizza place, bike shop and offices) round a corner, tucked away a little on Colony Row, is Loftea Cafe. Phew. There’s a surprising lack of convenience stores around, but the cafe sorted me out.

If you can, stay in Boulder – it’s a fairly short walk from there to the mountains, easier than Denver, and not too far to the run. Second choice, somewhere near Denver centre, or near the i36. But it’s not impossible from elsewhere, and the view of the mountains through the morning, as the sun comes up, is stunning.

Results from South Boulder Creek parkrun, event 22, 21/7/18.

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