Colfax Half Marathon Review and What to Expect

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Last weekend I ran the Colfax Half Marathon in Denver! The Colfax races are by far the most popular running events in Denver. The annual event happens every May and includes a Marathon, Half Marathon, Urban 10k, Marathon Relay, and a 5k. 

Ever since I started running long distance, I knew I wanted to run in the Colfax Half. Many of my friends had run it over the years and I wanted to be part of such a huge local event. 

With the encouragement of my friend, I signed up early this year and couldn't wait to compete. While the training was tough at times, I am so glad that I did it and overall it was a rewarding experience. 

While I enjoyed many aspects of the Colfax Half, there were some things that I wish had been different. Read on for my full review of the event, where I discuss the pros and cons. 

Pre-race and training

Like many races, the Colfax Half (and other Colfax races) have a tiered pricing structure based on when you sign up. I registered early (January) and paid $89, which included the race participation, shirt, and medal. I thought this price was very reasonable. The price increases over time and was $124 for last-minute registration. 

After registering, I learned about the Colfax Ambassadors and group training runs. Throughout the training season, Colfax ambassadors host free training runs to help you get in shape, which is awesome!

My friend and I participated in a 10k at Sloan's Lake followed by a free breakfast at Even Stevens. This was a great experience because it pushed me to train early and gave me a "race day" experience running with other people. I wish I had attended more events like this later in my training to help keep me motivated. 

Packet Pick-up

Like most half marathons, the Colfax Half had a Health and Fitness Expo on the Friday and Saturday before the race where runners would go to pick up their race packets. The expo was conveniently located at Sports Authority Field at Mile High and included booths for packet pick-up, merchandise, and sponsors. 

Picking up my packet was quick and easy and they gave me a clear bag to check during race day. After picking up my packet, I had to follow the path to the rest of the expo that featured all the sponsors. While I'm never a big fan of these types of things, I thought this expo was particularly tacky. 

There were many sponsors there that were in no way related to fitness or running. I had to walk through the narrow walkway passed all of the sponsor booths in order to reach the exit. This was a bit annoying and I much preferred other races where I can just avoid the sponsor booths. 

The day before the race I signed up for participant tracking by text message. I entered my cell number and received automated updates of my race progress. I signed up my boyfriend and family members so they could also track my progress from home. 

The race tracking was very easy to use and worked perfectly!

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Race Day

The half marathon started at 6:45 at Denver's City Park near the Museum and the zoo. I took an Uber to the park, but the road closures made it very difficult to be dropped off near the park entrance. This was a bit stressful and frustrating to deal with on the morning of the race. Thankfully I arrived early (around 6am) and had enough time to get in and get settled. 

When I arrived I quickly found the bag check and went to the bathroom. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to find everything. The first half marathon I ran was not as organized and it was very difficult to find the bag check. 

I walked over to the starting line 10 minutes before race time. It was very easy to find my corral and again I was pleasantly surprised to see that the corrals were not overflowing with people. There was plenty of room and I didn't feel cramped like I did when I ran my first half marathon. 

The Race

When the horn for my corral blew, I started running and followed the people in front of me. It was so nice having plenty of room instead of feeling trapped behind a crowd of people. The course started at the park and went out into the streets of the neighborhood. 

Each mile number was marked with a large poster that made it easy to know my progress. There was also a water and Gatorade station every 2 miles along the course. I drink a lot of water when I run, so I loved how convenient the water stations were. 

The best part of the race was mile 3, which started at the Denver Zoo. We ran through the zoo, passing animals and exhibits on the way. I loved seeing the mountain goats, monkeys, elephants, and penguins. I swear one of the monkeys waved at me! 

Zoo employees were posted up along the path holding up clever signs that referenced the nearby animals. For example, one sign said: "A cheetah can run 68 MPH, how fast are you?"

The only downside of the zoo mile was that I could definitely smell the poop, but the fun distraction of the animals made it worth it. 

After leaving the zoo, the course went onto Montview Blvd for miles 3.5-6.5. This long stretch was my least favorite part of the race. I thought it was boring to run on the same stretch of street for so long. The view was not that exciting as it was mostly residential.

Towards the end of this stretch, however, we ran through Aurora Firestation #1 which was fun. The station played loud music and firefighters were lined up to high-five us as we ran through. This part was my second-favorite after the Zoo. 

After that, Mile 7 took us through 17th street, which was not much of a change of pace. Mile 8 wrapped around City Park and then 8.5 took us to E. Colfax Ave. through mile 10. 

The race is named after Colfax Ave, which is the longest main street in America. I expected this part of the race to be a highlight, but I was disappointed again that this stretch of the race was boring. While there was a view of the mountains, the immediate view was of the old rundown motels along Colfax, not exactly a pretty sight. 

The last few miles were along 17th Avenue until we reached City Park for the finish line. 

Overall, I thought the course was a bit boring since the streets were mostly residential and we ran the same streets for multiple miles. However, the course was fairly flat and was shaded most of the way, which was great. The mile through the zoo was great, I only wish there had been one other attraction like that towards the end of the race. 

The Finish Line and Post-Race Party 

When mile 12 finally came around, I couldn't wait to be almost done. The race ended back at City Park and the last stretch was through part of the park. The cheering section for the finish line was a bit confined and packed, making it almost impossible to pick out family and friends in the crowd. 

As I crossed the finish line, I was quickly greeted with my finisher's medal. I thought the medal was really cool! The medal itself had a unique design and the neckband was thick and had a black and yellow color scheme. 

After leaving the finish line area, I entered the main festival area and saw dozens of sponsor booths. I was impressed by the after party, there was lots of free snacks, drinks, and other giveaways.                            

Final Thoughts

Overall, I had a great experience running the Colfax Half. I would say that the course itself is not the most exciting (except for the mile through the zoo), and that was the most disappointing part for me.

I had previously run the Rock n Roll Half Marathon, whose course weaved through the streets of downtown, passing many city landmarks. I thought that course was much more interesting and took my mind off all the running. 

Other than the course, I thought the race was extremely well organized and the post-race party was well done. The participant tracking was also great. My family was able to see my progress updates and were texted with a time estimate for when I would finish. 

The second I finished the race, the tracking sent me a text with my final race time and average pace. This was awesome and so convenient! For other races, I've had to look up my time after, which was a bit annoying. 

A few days after the race, I received an email about the race day photos. They were offering free professional photo downloads from the race, which was a great surprise! I was pleasantly surprised with how good the photos came out and I loved that they offered them for free. 

Overall, I would recommend the Colfax Half! While the course wasn't the most exciting, the race itself was well executed and it is a special experience being part of the biggest running event in the state.