With lilac bushes in full bloom near the start line at City Park, the Colfax Marathon returned to its traditional position as a rite of spring for Colorado runners on Sunday for the first time since the pandemic.
The city’s largest running event drew some 11,000 people in the marathon, half-marathon, 10-mile and marathon relays. Another 5,000 ran in a 5K race on Saturday. The return to near normality after the pandemic was on the minds of many.
“It’s amazing to see that the community still wants to be here, that this hasn’t been lost, that people’s desire to do something and achieve something hasn’t diminished at all,” said Patrick Rizzo, 38, who finished second in half of the race. marathon. “It’s seeing the return of positivity in an atmosphere of camaraderie.”
The Colfax Marathon races began in 2006. They were canceled in May 2020 and postponed from May to October 2021 due to COVID-19. It traditionally ranks as the second largest running event in Colorado behind the Bolder Boulder Memorial Day 10K.
Al Herzl, 66, of Littleton, ran the marathon every year it was held, including last October to keep his streak alive.
“It’s huge,” Herzl said. “I’m so glad this has become a fixture in Colorado. It’s a great thing.
Adam Alban ran the half marathon despite suffering a bout of COVID in April.
“It totally disrupted my training,” said Alban, 51, who lives in Arvada. “I had to take a couple of weeks off, and when I came back I was definitely not as strong as I was before. But it’s good to be here with everyone.”
Christa Kamb ran the marathon with two friends to benefit World Vision, a faith-based humanitarian nonprofit organization that provides clean drinking water in poverty-stricken countries around the world. She stopped running during the pandemic.
“I didn’t have the motivation,” said Kamb, 40, who lives in Aurora. “Life was so different, like working from home, weird stuff with the kids at school, so I just didn’t feel like I had the energy. Now that things are starting to get back to normal, this kind of energy is contagious and it’s so much fun to be outside.”
Aurora’s Victoria Mugo overcame a different kind of medical crisis. She ran the half marathon on Sunday despite losing both her hands and lower legs in 2019 due to sepsis after she contracted pneumonia.
“It really broke me because I’m a mother and I had a 3-year-old son,” said Mugo, 41. “I had to focus on something that would bring me back to life. Running was always my thing. My goal was, if I can get up again, and even walk, I can be a better mother, a better sister, a better friend, a better partner. So this is a huge achievement for me, because it’s only been three years. This is another impulse in my life, telling myself that no matter how life breaks you, you can decide to get up and do something about it.
Like many runners, being deprived of running events during the pandemic has been a struggle for Adam Popp, who lost his right lower leg while serving in Afghanistan as an Air Force bomb disposal technician.
“When these events are such a big part of our lives, you really lose that community, the sense of purpose and all these other things that mean a lot to me and this community,” said Popp, 43, of Golden. “Coming back to this feels like we’re getting back to normal, and it feels good to be back.”
Tyler McCandless of Fort Collins, who ran the Los Angeles Marathon eight weeks ago and qualified for the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Trials, won Sunday’s marathon and broke Colfax’s record with a time of 2 hours , 21 minutes and 7 seconds. His last race before the pandemic was the 2020 marathon trials in Los Angeles, which drew massive crowds along the course. Less than a month later, the world went into lockdown due to COVID.
“So we didn’t leave our house for months,” said McCandless, 35. “This is a very important part of my life and I love it. I love the community. It’s just amazing. I will not take it for granted again.”
Rizzo could relate to the sense of isolation people felt during the pandemic because he became partially deaf as a teenager. Running became his survival mechanism. He believes the pandemic has taught important lessons for many.
“Not to belittle anyone for their losses, but what will get us through any health crisis is health and seeing people come back committed to a healthy lifestyle,” Rizzo said. “I have seen people lose 80 pounds in the last two years. That’s inspiring, to see someone change their entire trajectory, their life expectancy. Those are the stories that I love to see in the race, what people did to get here.”
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