You line up at the start. You stretch your legs, ready for the long haul. The gun finally goes off and you’re suddenly moving in a pack of hundreds, maybe even thousands of fellow runners. If the thrill and challenge of a marathon is something that gets your blood pumping, Colorado is the place to be. Hailed as a training mecca due to its elevation, terrain, and tricky climate, the Centennial State boasts some of the nation’s best marathons. Here is a handful to whet your appetite.
1. Colorado Marathon
Earning the state name in its title, this Boston-qualifying course is famous for the scenery and flat terrain. Winding along the Cache la Poudre River north of Fort Collins, this marathon is touted as “America’s fastest marathon course”, qualifying a staggering 16-18% of all entrants for the past 8 years. The 26.2 miles ambles down the canyon and finishes in Old Town Fort Collins, starting at 6,108 feet of elevation and ending down at 4,981 feet. Runners are rewarded with breathtaking views of the rushing river, towering trees, and the rocky canyon walls, not to mention the finisher’s party at Coopersmiths Pub. This popular race is capped at only 1000 participants, ensuring a less intimidating and more comfortable experience. If you’re looking for a fast, scenic, and stress-free marathon, the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins, Colorado is a top pick. Registration fills up fast.
2. Boulder Marathon
Previously known as the Boulder Backroads Marathon, this is a local favorite for the varying course and impressive sponsor (read: swag bag) list. Making its way around Table Mesa and the Boulder Reservoir, this course is mostly along dirt roads, easier on the joints than asphalt. The views are spectacular, offering panoramas of the Flatirons, sweeping pastureland, and rolling hills, starting and finishing at 5,130 feet. This event offers a relay option, as well as a half marathon and 10K, gathering quite a large crowd and boasting a lively post-race party. Runners will encounter many hills, but the sheer beauty of the scenery and the cool September air may provide distractions from all the huffing and puffing. The energy of an enormous crowd, sweeping views of mountains and valleys, and the high quality of goodies are what make the Boulder Marathon what it is. If this sounds like your kind of race, register here.
3. Colfax Marathon
The sights, sounds, and smells of Downtown Denver are all experienced in this exciting marathon. This fast course takes you through the amazing Colfax Ave. area of Denver, passing the Denver Aquarium and Coliseum, starting and ending in the lush City Park. Live music, dancing troupes, and plentiful aid stations line the roads, eager to keep runners hydrated and entertained. There are several hills and turns, making this marathon a bit more difficult but also attracting more international talent. This race also consists of a half-marathon and relay option and draws in thousands of participants every May, even including a kid’s run the day prior. If you’re a city slicker and enjoy the consistency of asphalt runs, and want a more challenging race, then the Colfax Marathon is just the one for you. Visit the registration page here.
4. Pikes Peak Marathon
If you enjoy climbing mountains, unpredictable weather, and thin air, the Pikes Peak Marathon is for you. This challenging course starts in Manitou Springs and gains 7,815 feet in elevation as it winds up to the summit of Pikes Peak (elevation: 14,115 feet). Named one of the most challenging and rewarding races in the country, this marathon is just the ticket for the toughest and fittest among us. Filled with hazards like lightning, snowstorms, wind, and rockslides, the Pikes Peak Marathon is one of the few races in the world that requires the assistance of a professional search and rescue team. There is also a half-marathon, called the Ascent, if you want to break yourself in lightly. Both races fill up very quickly, as well as the waiting lists. This out-and-back course exists mostly on the Barr Trail in Pike National Forest, winding and narrow, and has many sharp turns and drops. However, the breathtaking views of the mountain range and dense forest make the grueling journey worthwhile. If you think you have what it takes to run the harrowing 26.2 miles at the mercy of mother nature, sign your life away here.
*Be aware that running a marathon is a difficult physical task and requires significant training. Be sure that you know what you’re getting in to, be prepared on race day, and have a nutrition/hydration plan. But most of all, have fun! Colorado is a truly amazing place to run and will be well worth the effort!