The Pearl Street Mile – 2018
The Pearl Street Mile – 2018
By Ed Bickley
I was fortunate enough to be able to make it to this annual Boulder, Colorado road mile in August, 2018 to fit into my summer-long ’60-in-6’ mile streak at the time. It was listed as one of the top road miles in the US and, as I hope to do the ‘Bolder Boulder 10K’ someday, I wanted to check the town out.
This was the first year of a new, 2-loop course which makes less use of Pearl Street proper (Boulder’s ‘main street’ walking mall) which is a little quirky with a bunch of turns and a 180 turnaround at the half. Not a particularly quick course but it had the benefit (at least during warmups) of making the individual loops seem really short. As there were 5 heats (a kid’s run, an open 7:00 minute+ pace run, an open sub-7:00 pace run (my heat), women’s elite, and men’s elite). This is a great format, much like the Carlsbad 5000, as it allows everyone to watch the heats they’re not running in and builds to the elite events. In retrospect, I could maybe have talked myself into the elite heat but I don’t enjoy being last even if might have pulled me to a faster time.
Based on my last road mile in June in Edmonton, I had hoped to match that time (5:22) or, at least, run around 5:30. I felt pretty strong during warmups and the weather was calm and about 30 degrees at the start line. However, this was not to be.
The crowd of 100 or so sub-7:00 milers rapidly all ‘surged’ toward the start line during the race instructions so that, by the time the gun went, everyone had a patch of ground of about 6 square inches to plant their feet on (don’t people know that this actually slows down their start by having everyone trip over each other the first few meters?). Predictably, I found myself struggling to get any kind of room and/or pace until later in the first ¼ mile. After that, although I was consistently at about 5:40 pace, I couldn’t seem to pick it up and the second lap was frustrating as my legs kept ignoring my instructions to them to speed up. I crossed in just under 5:50, no better than the non-race miles I’ve been doing daily on all sorts of tracks and bike paths. My highly-scientific, completely-objective list of factors which kept me from 5:30:
- :10 seconds lost – altitude – although I had no feel for being at altitude, everyone says its supposed to be a factor in Colorado, so, I’ll go with the flow.
- :05 lost – the crowded heat slowed my pace at the start (for positive-splitting, early sprinters like me, this is a disadvantage)
- :05 lost – the course has lots of 90 and 180 degree turns and slight ups and downs I only noticed once I was tiring
There you have it, scientific proof that I actually ran my goal time J
Me, in front of the locally-iconic Boulder Court House (and the finish line):
Being a prominent US ‘running town’ means that there were lots of local (Colorado) sub-5-minute ‘elites’ (both male and female). Becky Wade was the only name I recognized (she was 3rd). The men’s race was won in a time of 4:16 but, given the highly-objective factors above, this was could have been clocked by someone capable of 4:00 flat.
The men’s winner crosses the line in front of the Boulder Court House; The women’s leader approaches the final turn:
Another Boulder-running note: Benji Durden and his wife did the timing for the races, for anyone who doesn’t know that name from the 70s, you can google him.
After the runs, a surprisingly-big street party was being staged on the Pearl Street mall with food trucks, Stampede-sized beer garden, and 80’s vintage rock band. A really fun night. Later, as I drove out of town, I passed another big street party near the university district – clearly, Boulder punches well above its weight on summer Saturday evenings with respect to street parties.
To sum up:
- Road Miles are great; all the race rituals with only a few minutes of pain. Boulder is a perfect setting for this and its really well-supported locally (they had to turn away many runners as they kept the number of total runners capped at 300). Good semi-elite local field means most people stay to watch all the races.
- Boulder is a beautiful venue in the summer and has a surprising number of things happening for a small college town.
- The race giveaway was a beer mug and complementary drink at the downtown beer garden.
- Too many runners and/or too small a start chute meant some harrowing start moments as the crowds jockeyed through the first yards of most of the heats.
- The course has many turns (apparently, this is a concession to keeping it spectator-friendly and to blocking off as small a portion of downtown as possible). The past course was apparently faster but more difficult to stage.
- Despite my complaints about my time, most of that is on me, there’s nothing ‘ugly’ about this event.