Colorado is popular with outdoors enthusiasts. With a minimum of 300 days of sunshine each year, fantastic champagne powder snow, miles and miles of greenbelt and trails, and many cities that are bicycle friendly, it’s really no surprise it is considered one of the healthiest states in America.
The Centennial State has a very active running season and offers some of the most challenging, most scenic, and most fun running events.
Two of the most scenic are the Rim Rock Marathon and the Devil Mountain 50 miler/50K races. Rim Rock is located in the state’s western slope area. Participants run mostly uphill for about 14 miles from one entrance of the Colorado National Monument to the other, with the remaining miles almost completely downhill. The views are outstanding. Aid stations compete against each other which means a lot of fun and super refreshments.
Located outside of Pagosa Springs, Devil Mountain actually offers a few options: a half marathon, a 50K ultra, or if that isn’t enough of a workout you can choose to do the 50-miler instead. It is challenging no matter the distance involved, and the course winds through areas of hip-high grass, woods, beautiful mesas, old logging roads, and so on. It is one of my favorite ultras.
Looking for a different kind of half marathon? Head up to the mountains and do the Slacker Half Marathon. Billed as the highest downhill half marathon in America, it has a fun environment and is big enough to have great support but small enough that it makes it even more enjoyable. The race begins at an elevation of 10,630 feet, and you cross the finish line at 8400 feet. Make sure to do plenty of walking afterwards, or your quads will be paying you back the next day.
Ever wanted to run up a mountain? How about two different peaks? Well, here’s your chance! The Breckenridge Crest Mountain Marathon, which also offers a challenging half marathon option, is one of my favorite races in Colorado. Not only are you treated to amazing sights, an extremely varied course, and high-altitude physical tests, but your fellow runners are some of the coolest people around.
The post-race events are sure to satisfy as well. Be careful to not underestimate the difficulty of this race, though, and make sure to plan for any type of weather. The first year I ran it we started out with warm sun and were treated to snow at 12,000 feet. You just never know what you’ll get, which is part of the fun.
For the truly hardy (and some might argue crazy), there is the legendary Leadville Trail 100 run. 100 what, you ask? Miles. Yes, 100 miles of trail running that includes some water crossings, 18,168 feet of elevation gain, and the lowest altitude is at over 9000 feet. This race has one of the highest DNF (did not finish) rates because cutoff times are strictly enforced, as are some medical checks. In order to officially finish, you have to cross the line in under 30 hours.
When planning your stay in Colorado, make sure to check out some of these events and add to the joy and sense of personal accomplishment of your vacation or business trip.
And you can burn off all those microbrew beers you’ve been sampling as well.
Have you participated in any of these events? Which was your favorite?