Cheering wildly, Adane Alemu perched in the stands at Folsom Field on Monday with his fellow Ethiopians, swathed in their national colors of red, yellow and green.
Ethiopian runners won both the women's and men's professional races in Monday's 10K Bolder Boulder, with the top three Ethiopian men crossing the finish line holding hands, as a team.
"It was very exciting," said Alemu, who ran the citizen's race himself in a fast 42 minutes. "This race is a lot of fun. I love running, and I run it every year."
This year's race saw 53,992 runners register - second only to 2008's total of 54,040 - and a record 50,421 complete the 6.2-mile course.
Runners were met with warm, sunny weather, although race day itself was marked this year by crippling traffic and a medical emergency at the finish line: A 13-year-old boy's heart stopped as he completed the race, but medics at Folsom Field were able to revive him and save his life.
For runners, getting to the race was half the battle.
Construction on north Broadway snarled traffic throughout the city; some Regional Transportation District buses took 90 minutes to reach the starting line from Frasier Meadows. Race officials even pushed back the start-time cut-off by about half an hour to accommodate all the latecomers.
Runners and walkers wound through Boulder, leaving the starting line in 89 separate waves. The final wave hit the 6.2-mile course at about 10 a.m. The professional racers started at about 11:40 a.m.
The race ended at Folsom Field at the University of Colorado, where it was followed by a Memorial Day tribute with skydivers, a 21-gun salute and a flyover by four military jets.
Brian Medigovich, 22, of Alamosa, won the men's citizens' race; Cassie Slade, 26, of Highlands Ranch, won the women's.
While the first waves mainly were comprised of serious runners, others treated the race as more of a party than a competition. Costumes are a Bolder Boulder fixture, with bananas, chickens, crayons and a wide assortment of other characters making an appearance.
"It's a happening," said Tammy Brown, of Broomfield. "The best part is watching all the other people."
Along the course, 35 entertainers sang, danced and jammed. The Goonies, an '80s cover band, made its first Bolder Boulder appearance.
"We had a blast," said Nathan Halco, who plays guitar, bass and keyboards with the group. "We are Boulder's band and this is Boulder's thing."
All the usual suspects also were in their designated places. The Blues Brothers played "Soul Man" and other famous hits near 30th and Pearl streets, belly dancers swayed just before the 7-Eleven on Folsom Street and Elvis was in the house a little further down the road.
Lots of spectators -- not always sober -- also lined the streets to shout encouragement and spray the runners with hoses and water guns. At the starting line at 7 a.m., one group on an apartment balcony littered with beer cans held up a sign that read "We drink, you run."
Max Boykoff, whose house is along the route on Walnut Street, sat in his yard with friends and served as Whittier Elementary School's Bolder Boulder running club "support station." About 100 parents and students, including Boykoff's wife and 7-year-old son, ran the race.
"It's fantastic," he said. "It's more than I expected."
Something for all
From babies in carriers to seniors, the race holds wide appeal.
For 22 students from Thornton's Niver Creek Middle School, the race was both a motivator to get physically fit and an opportunity for a new experience.
Jovanny Carillo, 14, described the Bolder Boulder as "amazing."
"I like running," he said. "It's an individual sport. You're able to push yourself. The race is a good tribute to the ones who fought for America."
Terry Aragon, a 71-year-old from Boulder, is one of 71 members left in the "Bolder Boulder's Boldest" group -- people who have run every race since the event started in 1979 with 2,700 participants.
Aragon was almost sidelined this year by a blocked artery in his leg and some blockages around his heart that will require surgery. But his daughter and son-in-law agreed to push him in a wheelchair so he could cross the finish line for the 32nd time.
"I've been doing it for so long, it's in my blood," said Aragon, who carried a sign that read, "32 going for 42." "This was the easiest race I've run. They did all the work."
While the race itself went smoothly, getting there on the RTD's shuttle buses proved a frustratingly slow experience for some participants.
Marie Blaney, whose start time was about 9 a.m., gave herself an hour to get there on the bus. Instead, the shuttle that picked her up at Baseline Road and Mohawk Drive took 90 minutes to make it the starting line, taking the long way around and getting bogged down in the one-lane construction traffic on Broadway.
"It was horrible," she said. "We missed our start time and barely made the cut-off time for the whole race."
She said some of the riders gave up and got off the bus, trying to walk to the start line. A different route or policemen to direct traffic should have been in place, she said.
Scott Reed, an RTD spokesman, confirmed Monday afternoon that bus trips along that route took as long as 90 minutes at that point in the morning. He noted there are "very few fast routes through Boulder on race day."
"Because Broadway was shut down to one lane, traffic was moving at a crawl," Reed said. "People made the best out of a very difficult situation."
He said RTD shuttles continued to pick up people in Longmont and Broomfield who arrived late, while race officials pushed back the race cut-off time by about half an hour because so many people -- arriving by RTD shuttle or otherwise -- arrived late.