In the summer of 1858, a small group of prospectors from Georgia crossed the great plains of the Colorado Territory and made a region-changing discovery at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Gold. And although not much of the precious metal was found, the mere whisper of the word was enough to start a veritable stampede into the region. Now 159 years later every October a stampeded of a different type takes place, the Rock and Roll Denver Half Marathon.
Denver, aka the Mile High City, is located 5280 feet above sea level with many elevations even higher. I was in Denver for the week for the week of October 8th at a trade show and decided to stay and run the Rock and Roll Denver Half Marathon on October 15th.
I was excited and looking forward to the race when crawling out of bed at 5.30 AM on a crisp 19 Fahrenheit Denver morning. I’d booked a hotel right beside the start which was a big plus. Denver is a small city so easy to get around and very runnable.
Standing on the start line I had not yet made the decision to run the Dublin marathon 2 weeks later. Tired going into the race I decided to be cautious and start off at 3:45 a conservative pace by normal standards. 3 Miles down the road that was starting to feel like 10K pace. I underestimated the difficulty of running in the mile high city at any kind of pace. The guys I was running with were going for 6-minute pace and kind of taking the piss that I thought I could hold the pace having never run at altitude in a race before.
By the time I got 10K into the race I was trying to keep a 4 minute pace and getting passed out. That part of the course had lots of small climbs that felt like running in the fields of dreams. I saw 76, 78, 80 minutes slipping away from me and ended up finishing in 80.58 with a sprint finish. The experience was strange with my lungs on fire but legs feeling like it was an easy pace. Crossing the line I decided I needed to try 26.2 in Dublin in 2 weeks time to extinguish a few doubts. The search for a number begins.
Aside from the run course, the Mile High City boasts more than 4,000 acres of traditional parks and parkways, which include 2,500 urban natural acres, over 300 acres of parks designated Rivers & Trails and an additional 14,000 acres of spectacular mountain parks. The prettiest and easiest jogging paths follow Cherry Creek and the Platte River. You can go as far as you want at whatever pace you choose. Both trails are basically flat. So you don’t have to worry about taxing your heart going uphill in The Mile High City. I spent a few days in Rocky Mountain national park before the race and have never felt anything like running at 9000 feet and seeing a giant moose walk out on the road in front of you. Despite it being 2 flights away I could not recommend Denver enough for a vacation or to run.