The Colorado Marathon and Half Marathon take place on the first Sunday in May in Fort Collins, CO. The event is four races, including a 5K and 10K. I raced the half marathon in 2022; here’s my quick recap of my race and review f the Colorado Half Marathon.
Colorado Marathon & Half Marathon: Where to Stay and Eat
Fort Collis is approximately one hour north of Boulder. The race is smaller than many Denver half marathons and definitely more scenic than races in the city (although not as scenic as Boulder). You begin in the Poudre Canyon and descent down into downtown Fort Collins. The race attracts a few thousand runners spread out amongst the four distances.
We stayed at the Marriott Elizabeth Hotel, which is approximately ½ mile from the shuttle pick-up and finish line area. I highly recommend this location for runners, especially since the shuttle pick-up is early. If you sign up early enough, you can get a discount through the race. That said, if you miss it, call the hotel – we were able to make a last-minute reservation there.
Downtown Fort Collins is filled with several restaurants and breweries. There are plenty of options for eating the night before and after the race. We had a post-race brunch at Silver Grille Cafe, which hit the spot with a breakfast burrito and beer after the race. Other great restaurants include Ginger & Baker, Union Bar & Soda Fountain, and Coppersmith Pub. If you want to visit a local brewery, New Belgium and O’Dells are popular spots.
Colorado Half Marathon & Half Marathon: Race Day Logistics
As it is located in the Front Range of Colorado, you will run at high altitude (~5000+ ft). If you live in the Boulder-Denver area, this is obviously no big deal. If you are coming from sea level, you will want to adjust your pace goals and increase your fluid intake.
Packet pick-up was quick and seamless. They offer Friday and Saturday packet pick-up at a small convention center. I was quickly in and out in less than 10 minutes. If you make a reservation on your registration, you can pick up your bib the day of. Race swag includes a shirt and beer koozie, plus the medal.
On race day, the shuttles leave between 4:30-5:15 AM. Once the shuttles leave, you cannot reach the race start, as the route is closed to cars.
The race starts in a canyon, which means you need to stay warm while waiting. Colorado spring mornings can be cold, especially in canyons. Depending on which shuttle you take, you have 1-1.5 hours waiting. Standing for that long is not optimal before a race, so bring something to sit on. I brought a large mylar blanket that I was able to sit on and then wrap over myself. I dropped most of my layers at gear check but kept an old sweatshirt and the space blanket on until 5 min before the race.
There are no corrals. You self-seed with pacers. Most runners self-seeded appropriately; the first mile was not crowded nor was there much passing (at least at the front of the pack).
The race itself is medium-sized, with approximately 800 half marathon runners. There are more marathoners, but they start another 13 miles further up in the canyon.
After the race, the finishers area in a park offers food trucks and a free beer to every runner over 21 years old.
Colorado Half Marathon: Course
The course is a point-to-point, net downhill course. According to my GPS, there is approximately 108 feet elevation gain and 512 feet loss. There are a couple of uphill segments along the way, but they are not significant in grade and are short. The downhill never felt significant. At the start and after the short hill at mile 6, it was fairly noticeable; in some segments, it was barely perceptible.
The Colorado Marathon boasts scenic mountain views. However, the half marathon only runs through the canyon for the first few miles. The canyon miles have a sharp camber, so it was actually welcome to leave the canyon. The middle miles enter into the town, and the later few are along the Poudre River Trail. The final mile weaves off the trail and into downtown Fort Collins.
Some marathoners I spoke to said the first half of the marathon course included challenging camber and downhill. The second half of the marathon overlaps on the marathon course.
Colorado Half Marathon Race Recap
When I was getting ready, I ate one packet of Nature’s Path unfrosted toaster pastries and a banana (100 grams of carbs) and drank 12 oz of water. I drank coffee with oat milk on the bus ride up to the canyon. while waiting at the race start area, I sipped on 16 oz Nuun Prime and finished that about an hour before the start.
The race begins downhill, so I focused on staying in control for the first 5k. The middle miles ticked away quickly. I focused on staying in control of pace and sometimes found myself syncing with other women running roughly the same effort. I waved and smiled at volunteers and spectators. There were a couple of small hills, but nothing significant if you run on any hills in training. At some points, I was running alone, so I tried to settle into a small pack when I came up on other runners at my pace.
During the race, I grabbed Nuun at each aid station. I took a Maurten hydrogel at 35 minutes and 70 minutes. This was my first time racing with Maurten and I was very pleased with how easily it went down – and with no GI upset. I passed a few runners in miles 8-11, and then focused on holding on for the final 2 miles when my breathing rate increased and some expected fatigue crept in.
The final kilometer was difficult: you have multiple turns and a short uphill. The hill is barely a speed bump, but it’s one that you feel near the end, especially when coupled with a tight turn. Once I made the final turn into the finisher’s area, I pushed as hard as I could.
I finished in 1:40:53 (chip average pace of 7:42/mile). With this time, I placed 6th in the female 30-34 age group, 30th female, and 89th overall. This was my first half marathon in four years, after a hiatus due to a broken foot, pregnancy/postpartum, the pandemic, and two cross-country moves. While it was six minutes off my PR, I was really pleased with the time – especially for it being my first race at high altitude.
My Coros read 13.2 miles; most other runners I saw on Strava read 13.15-13.25. My watch matched the mile markers until 13; I think I added that distance due to poor tangent running and weaving around 10k runners in the final mile.
This race reminded me just how much I love road marathons and half marathons. The early rise time was a downside. However, the course was probably one of the fastest courses in the Front Range. The race was well-organized and on the smaller side, which is my preference for half marathons.