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'Something about BOLDERBoulder that's just fun': Conner Mantz on his 2023 win and why's he's returning in 2024

This marks the 44th running of the BOLDERBoulder, which has attracted runners from around the world.
BOLDERBoulder Korir, Young, Mantz.jpg
Boston Marathon
Posted at 11:34 AM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-14 13:39:22-04

BOULDER, Colo. — With a win at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon a few months behind him, elite runner Conner Mantz is now eyeing to defend his title at the BOLDERBoulder 10K at the end of May.

This year, more than 40,000 people are expected to run the BOLDERBoulder on Memorial Day, May 27. The open race is followed by the professional races, and all runners cross the same finish line inside the University of Colorado Boulder's iconic Folsom Field.

It's a moment Mantz, 27, still struggles to describe.

Conner Mantz on his 2023 BOLDERBoulder win and why's he's returning in 2024

"You get in that stadium and it's kind of like the dream every athlete wants to have, like where the crowd is just going crazy and you're running well," he said. "In running, you don't get that many experiences where the crowds are that loud... You run into the stadium and it's just indescribable how loud and how special of a feeling that is."

On Feb. 3, 2024, Mantz, a Utah native, won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the marathon, just ahead of his teammate Clayton Young. It punched the ticket that would get Brigham Young University graduate to the Paris Olympics this summer.

BOLDERBoulder 2023 winners

BOLDERBoulder

All 4 Americans who won BOLDERBoulder races in 2023 will defend titles this year

Stephanie Butzer
12:03 PM, Apr 11, 2024

Mantz, as well as the other three champions from the 2023 race, are returning this year:

  • Emily Durgin, of Flagstaff, in the professional women's race
  • Howie Sanborn, of Denver, in the professional men's push-rim wheelchair
  • Kendall Gretsch, of Colorado Springs, in the professional women's push-rim wheelchair

Last year marked just the second time in the event's history that Americans won all four races.

BOLDERBoulder 2023 winners
Conner Mantz and Emily Durgin won the men's and women's professional race at the 2023 BOLDER Boulder. Howie Sanborn and Kendall Gretsch won their professiona men's and women's push-rim wheelchair races. All are participating in the 2024 race.

Mantz recalled hearing about the iconic race when he was in high school. It piqued his interest even back then.

"I didn't know all the details about it, but I knew it was a big race in Colorado, and one that I thought would be fun to do one day," Mantz remembered.

That day came in 2023, but he wasn't full of confidence headed to the starting line amid Team USA - Utah. Memories of a disappointing race at the 2023 Boston Marathon that April lingered. His teammate Jared Ward had a hamstring injury that reared its head during the warm up and teammate Young had recently had surgery. Mantz figured the team wouldn't have a great performance, but might turn out OK.

The gun went off and the men jumped off the start line.

BOLDERBoulder Korir, Young, Mantz.jpg
Pictured running from left to right: Leonard Korir (Colorado Springs, CO), Clayton Young (Springville, UT) and Conner Mantz (Provo, UT)

Mantz was in the lead around the two-mile marker when elite U.S. runner Teshome Mekonen ran out ahead of him. But the front pack gradually caught up to Mekonen. Around four miles in, somebody made a move around the top of a hill, Mantz remembered.

"And I was like, ‘OK, we're going to go downhill. I'll just let them go up the hill, and then I'll catch back up,'" he said.

But to his surprise, as the road turned downhill, the three lead runners began expanding the space between them and Mantz.

BOLDERBoulder is a "deceptively hard" course because of hills like that one, plus all of the turns, he said. Most of the crowds are in the stadium so the course itself was somewhat quiet, he said, but remembered neighbors spraying the runners with hoses to help keep them cool.

He spotted the runner in fifth place behind him and settled into fourth place, grasping at the hope that one of the top three would falter.

"But it doesn't look great," he recalled thinking. "It's happening — because they're all switching the lead. They're all making moves. And I'm just creating my own pace."

Boston Marathon
Conner Mantz, of the United States, center, runs near Evans Chebet, of Kenya, left, during the 127th Boston Marathon, Monday, April 17, 2023, in Ashland, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

But then the man in third place dropped back. As Mantz neared him, he increased his pace slightly to deter the man from trying to go with him.

"I thought, 'Well, that was my kick. At least I got my goal of top three,'" he said. "I was kind of bummed because I wanted to be fighting for a win."

Then he noticed Mekonen was getting closer. As the men surged up a hill, Mantz passed him.

That left the man in first: Alex Masai, a runner from Kenya well-known for his sprints at the end of races.

"But I passed Alex and just trying to, you know, give it all I got," Mantz said.

As he pushed to the finish, he saw no response from Masai over his shoulder.

"And then I was able to come in first," Mantz said. "The roar of the crowd was amazing. Before the race, Jared Ward told us that the crowd of BOLDERBoulder is the only thing he's ever experienced that compares to the Olympic Games. And so it was like, you get in that stadium and you can't hear anything. It's so loud. But it was a cool moment."

Winning the race as an American on Memorial Day was a bonus, he said.

Now, he's looking forward to defending his title in 2024.

"I'm coming back because I had such a good experience last year," Mantz said. "I think there's something about BOLDERBoulder that's just fun."

He said he is hoping to run a personal best on for the course this year.

After the Boulder race, he will focus on racing the Olympic Trials in the 10,000-meter in Eugene in June, he said. He already qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics in the marathon and believes it will be a good tune-up, especially knowing that he has already made the Olympic team.

As Memorial Day nears, the professional runner has some advice for those racing in Boulder that morning: go out conservative, try to feel good in the first two miles ahead of the more difficult sections, and enjoy the course and camaraderie.

"Even if you're competing with yourself or competing for an age group award or just competing against the distance itself and trying to, you know, finish — try to just have fun being surrounded by all those people," he said.


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