DENVER — The Colfax Marathon attracts around 20,000 runners to their seven different distances, making it Denver's largest race.
In 2006 and 2007, the Colfax Marathon hosted the National Wheelchair Championships, so push rim wheelchairs were allowed on the half and full marathon. In 2008, the course was changed because runners did not want to pay to run straight up Colfax for 26.2 miles, and the marathon was losing money with the course.
From 2008 to the present year, push rim wheelchair athletes had various options, ranging from the 5K, the half marathon, or both.
This year, one Para athlete is taking on the full Colfax Marathon as a pilot program, to see if more Para athletes could participate in the race in the future.
"You really have to take a hard look at safety. So, what we want to do is see, how does this work this year?" said Andrea Dowdy, CEO of the Colfax Marathon. "We don't promise anything for next year or the year after, but we are really looking hard at what that looks like."
The Para athlete participating in the full Colfax Marathon this year is Julia Beckley. She says there will be challenging parts of the course, like making hairpin turns or steep uphill and downhill areas. But for Beckley, it's not about a finish line.
“This is my journey. No one else needs to decide how it looks," Beckley said. “It feels like there's purpose and meaning and it matters.”
Beckley helps train young Para athletes how to race as well. One of those athletes is Dyhlani Perez, who is a senior at Yuma High School and a member of the track team. Perez was in a car accident last year, where she broke her neck, back, and femur. She was in the hospital for around a month, and doctors estimate she will regain mobility in about two years.
“It was heartbreaking," Perez said. "I felt I wasn't part of the team anymore. I felt forgotten. It was scary to go back to school and know that nobody had seen me in months."
Beckley began helping Perez train to race in a wheelchair, bringing back the adrenaline the high school senior missed. To see her coach compete in the full Colfax Marathon is an inspiration for Perez.
“You don't realize how restricted and limited the world is when it comes to Para athletes," Perez said. "The fact that somebody I know can make a difference is so reachable.”
The Colfax Marathon will take place on May 14 and May 15.