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Permit problem almost stopped first BOLDERBoulder in its tracks

First BOLDERBoulder in 1979.png
Posted at 10:52 AM, Apr 15, 2022

This story was originally published to celebrate the 40th running of the BOLDERBoulder in 2018.

BOULDER, Colo – Race founder Steve Bosley was the President of the Bank of Boulder back in 1979 when he asked Olympian Frank Shorter to help him organize a track meet for kids.

“We were community oriented, the community bank, and looking for something,” Bosley remembered during a recent visit.

Shorter thought the bank needed to do something bigger.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you just put on a road race,’ and I famously asked, ‘What’s a road race.’”

Bosley quickly learned what a road race was and started planning the first BOLDERBoulder, but plans for that first race were nearly derailed when no one thought to get a permit for event.  Bosley found himself at City Hall talking to Andy Hollar less than a week before the race.

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“It was a Thursday or maybe a Wednesday and Steve said, ‘We’re going to have a race and no one will give me a permit… we forgot to get it,’” Hollar said.  “I said, ‘Let;s see what we can do.’ We wound up getting a permit.  I don’t remember what we had to do but we got it going.”

Celeste McDowell worked at the bank that first year.

“We kinda felt we knew what we were doing because we felt we were organized and we had Frank giving us hints from time to time,” she said. 

McDowell now handles human resources for the BOLDERBoulder and this will be her 40th year working on the race in some capacity.

“As the race continued to grow I just always keep leaning more toward doing more and more race stuff and less and less bank stuff because the race was so exciting and the banks was okay, but it’s not exciting like racing,” she said.

More than 50,000 people will cross the finish line this year, but back in 1979 the goal was just 4,000.  Bosley says he remembers being upset they only had 2,800.

“In the early stages we made big innovations, finish in a stadium, separate men’s and women’s races, the wave start… those were huge,” Bosley said.

“We didn’t think we could fail,” McDowell recalled.  “We just said ‘Let’s try it.’ If it didn’t work that year, we would improve upon it the next year.”

As impressive as the race has become, both Bosley and McDowell believe its the Memorial Day tribute at the end of the race that has been the true star of the BOLDERBoulder since day one.

“I still get teary eyed 40 years later.  It just gives me goose bumps,” McDowell said.

With thousands of people of filling the stands every year, it has become the largest Memorial Day tribute in the nation.

“A million warriors have given their life in service to this country and to have the opportunity to do that the right way and have that many people involved is pretty spectacular,” Bosley said.