Race Guide: Denver’s Bronco 7k

**UPDATE FROM 2016 RACE**

My friend Melissa ran the 2016 Broncos 7k, and it looks like race management really took last year’s issues to heart! Melissa shared this picture of the newly revamped finish line, which they managed to widen without damaging the turf. I can’t speak to the new course, but it also looks like the tshirts also got an upgrade. Maybe I’ll come back in 2017!

Photo by Melissa Aaron
Photo by Melissa Aaron

Back to the original post:

It’s almost that time of year in Denver! The Broncos 7k ushers in the beginning of football season, and the unique football-tribute distance (7k…that’s 7 points for a touchdown for you Sports Fans out there) makes it a great transition race for those looking to move up from a 5k. In theory, the race is great – you get to run on the field, lots of freebies, pretty course – but in practice, the logistics need some work.

In 2014, we started and finished at Mile High, weaving our way through the adjacent neighborhoods towards Sloan Lake. This is where the problems start.

Thanks to the opportunity to show love for the Broncos and run into Mile High Stadium, this is a packed race. It’s comfortable when you’re on all the closed roads of the course. But Sloan Lake creates a massive bottleneck.

Thousands of runners that have been enjoying the wide open two-lane road are suddenly shoved onto a significantly more narrow asphalt (and occasionally dirt) path. You don’t want to run on the grass out of politeness, and at a certain point that’s not even an option since the grass is so tall. On top of that they’ve got the water station on the path.

It’s lovely that they have water stations during a 7k, and the middle school cheerleaders were adorably motivational, but then you have thousands of people that are finally adjusting to the bottleneck only to have half of them stop dead to get water.

After you run about halfway around the lake, you are spit back out onto the road. Hallelujah! Breathing room! Literally and figuratively – remember, everyone smells terrible because it’s a million degrees and you’re running in the blazing hot sun (note to everyone who says it’s a dry heat – ovens are dry too).

For the most part, the course is fairly level with a few hills that offer just enough challenge without completely exhausting you. Mile High comes into view at the end of the race, and after running around the stadium, you turn into the player’s chute….that is significantly smaller than the road you are currently running on.

The backup starts in the chute. Then, you realize that by “run onto Mile High field!” the organizers actually meant, “run on the sidelines that are cordoned off and guarded!” You guessed it…the players’ chute bottleneck goes into an even more intense bottleneck at the narrow lane at the finish line.

I was not being THAT a-hole that takes pics at the finish line. We were at a complete stop...
I was not being THAT a-hole that takes pics at the finish line. We were at a complete stop…

The finish line got so backed up that I didn’t actually run across it. I stopped about 20 yards before and had to shuffle along with thousands of my fellow sweaty, tired, gross runners. About twenty minutes later, we got around the field and were ushered into the chute on the other side of the stadium.

Somehow, even though the chute is larger, it is a complete clusterf*** inside. There are random volunteers handing out medals and water. At this point, there is approximately one volunteer to every 500 runners.

You continue your cattle call up into the belly of the stadium. You have to spiral up ramps at an agonizingly slow pace to get back up to the main level of the stadium, where aforementioned goodies await you along with a place to sit, more water, and food. It took another 20 minutes (at least) to get there, all the while you are stuck in a sweaty mass of extremely tired/hangry people.

The silver lining? Once you finally make it out, there are free sports massages, beer, and a ton of other concessions and live music. You can also go into the stands to take pictures, which is when we noticed the back-up at the finish line had gotten even worse and the entire field and chute were at a standstill and no one was even walking across the finish line.

Note the continued back up over my shoulder. The medals are sweet, as is the view of Mile High!
Note the continued back up over my shoulder. The medals are sweet, as is the view of Mile High!

The only people that weren’t complaining about the back up were the runners that finished quickly, but for the average beginner the race was a logistical nightmare. I run an 11-minute mile, and the finish line was already well on its way to maximum capacity by the time I reached it.

The course, freebies, and overall fun vibe are beginner-friendly, but the end of the race most certainly isn’t. Unless the organizers do a major overhaul of those logistics, I won’t be back for more.

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