In March, when the Bolder Boulder reacted to concerns over the spread of COVID-19 and announced the postponement of its traditional Memorial Day 10K road race, organizers turned their focus to a Labor Day event on Sept. 7.
But on Monday, Bolder Boulder officials announced that this year’s event has been canceled for the first time in its 41-year history.
“It’s funny how quickly time has passed (since March), but the landscape as it relates to COVID-19 is still very much an unknown,” race director Cliff Bosley said. “The determination at the end of the day is that canceling the race from Labor Day was probably the safest thing for us to do.”
The Fort Collins FORTitude, which had been combined with the Bolder Boulder for this year’s Labor Day event, will also be canceled. Plans are for both events to return to their normal dates and venues in 2021.
In making the decision to cancel, Bosley and officials were in regular contact with Boulder and the University of Colorado Boulder, which opens Folsom Field for the finish line and post-race Memorial Day tribute each year.
“It wasn’t an independent decision,” Bosley said. “(Boulder and CU) are our two most integral partners that allow the race to be the terrific experience that it’s been. At the center of this is an overabundance of caution related to COVID-19.”
Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have led to sporting events and large group activities being canceled around the country and the world in March. Government officials are still asking the public to avoid gathering in large groups, prompting the cancellation of several traditional events around the country.
Recently, Water World in Federal Heights announced it will not open this year; the Taste of Colorado, scheduled for Sept. 5-7, was canceled; and several bike races have been canceled or have gone virtual.
The Boston Marathon was originally scheduled for April 20 and then rescheduled for Sept. 14 before being canceled last week for the first time in its 124-year history.
“The Boston announcement didn’t force the decision; it just reinforced we’re probably looking at this accurately (by canceling),” Bosley said.
One of the largest 10K road races in the country, the Bolder Boulder annually draws close to 50,000 runners, as well as their families, and community members along the roads. By the end of the race, the Folsom Field stands are often nearly filled.
“We believe this is the right decision given the public health concerns and risks regarding the COVID-19 virus,” CU chancellor Phil DiStefano said in a news release. “We value our long-term partnership with the Bolder Boulder and look forward to being back stronger and bolder than ever next Memorial Day.”
Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam added, “Certainly, this year has brought changes that remind us that our primary focus must always be on the health of the participants and the wider community audience. We look forward to a time when we can once again welcome the many racers from places far and near — to run together and run free.”
Bosley’s father, Steve, founded the Bolder Boulder in 1979. It has become an annual tradition not only for the Bosleys, but for the community and runners.
“This is the most difficult decision we’ve ever had to make, but the health and safety of our participants and our community are paramount,” Bosley said. “Emotionally, this is a really tough deal.”
The Bolder Boulder 10K has been a target event for families, those with fitness goals and elite runners around the world. The post-race Memorial Day tribute has become one of the largest Memorial Day celebrations in the nation.
Bosley and race organizers know the event has become a big part of the community, and that’s part of why they felt it was best to cancel.
“In order for the Bolder Boulder to be back, there are a lot of other things that have to come back first,” Bosley said. “People need to get comfortable again with (going to work, school and other public events).
“If we don’t stage the Bolder Boulder the right way because we are hasty or because we force it, it’s not honoring our partners in the community, it’s not edifying to the community and ultimately it isn’t the Bolder Boulder experience. If it’s not good for the community, it cannot be good for the Bolder Boulder or its participants.”
The inaugural Bolder Boulder, in 1979, drew about 2,700 entrants and quickly expanded. By 1986, entries exceeded 20,000 and in 1998, the 40,000-mark was topped. Since 2007, the Bolder Boulder has had more than 50,000 entrants 10 times. A year ago, there were 47,312 entrants and 42,935 finishers.
Bosley and his team now turn their attention to the 2021 Bolder Boulder, scheduled for May 31, 2021 — exactly 52 weeks from Monday.
“Our planning is really focused on what are those things to continue to make it special, but make it extra special in 2021,” he said.