There were a few new things going on at the 2011 Bolder Boulder: a slightly new course and the millionth runner crossed the line.
Also new this year: The bacon guys didn’t dish out pork to runners along the way.
Bacon notwithstanding, the Bolder Boulder went on, with the usual pomp — bands lined Folsom Street to rock out more than 54,000 runners (some in costume), and all skydivers landed safely on the green confines of Folsom Field.
In the professional races, Belete Assefa, running for Ethiopia, took first place in 29:22.56. Lineth Chepkurui, racing for Kenya, edged out Mamitu Daska, the 2009 and 2010 winner, to win the women’s race in 32:29.79. The winning times were within seconds of winning times last year, on the old course.
Chepkurui said she was happy with her race.
“I’ve been here for the last month,” Chepkurui said, so she was unaffected by the altitude.
James Carney, of Boulder, took fifth place in the men’s race — the fastest finish for an American.
“This is my third year in a row,” he said. “I love this. I get more nervous for this race than I do for an Olympic trials.”
Jeremy Freed, of Evergreen, won the citizen’s portion of the race, while Akane Mutazaki, of Japan, was the first citizen’s woman across the line.
But mid-morning — after the first citizen runners and before the pros tore into Folsom Field and caused the crowd to roar — the millionth Bolder Boulder participant strode into the stadium.
The 20,801 person to cross the finish line and millionth ever, was Army veteran Mieszka Laczek-Johnson, a 34-year-old who served in Baghdad for three years.
She was injured and had to re-learn how to walk in 2002, she said, and eventually trained for and ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2009.
This was her first Bolder Boulder and she ran with photos of eight fallen soldiers on her back.
“I thought this was the perfect way to honor them on Memorial Day,” she said.
In the stands, far above where the press corps was interviewing Laczek-Johnson, was a man who started running the Bolder Boulder when he was a toddler.
Steve Sager, of Colorado Springs, said he started running the race in 1979.
“Every year we sit in section 107,” Sager said. He was surrounded by friends Tim Ryan and Tom Ramsey — all three in their 60s. “And we stay until the bitter end.”
Well, not all. Ryan said they sometimes leave Sager behind because he always watches everything — the elite runners, the skydivers and the rest of the Memorial Day celebration.
Meanwhile, back at the finish line, volunteer Paula Gerthe was keeping an eye out for runners who looked a little queasy.
“Lot of puke today,” Gerthe said. “It’s the weather — cooler weather makes people run faster.”
(Though there was a “lot of puke,” this year’s race was medically uneventful — three people went to the hospital for heat exhaustion, and all three were in stable condition as of Monday afternoon.)
Gerthe has been on “puke patrol” for several years, she said, which is essential, because if it’s slippery at the finish line, things can get ugly.
She added that she has five kids and thus, “Puke does not scare me.”
Six-year-old Casey Frye was also unafraid — of spraying passing runners and walkers with a squirt gun, that is.
Frye was hanging out with a crew of families on Walnut Street at what some runners think of as the “Bacon House.”
Frye’s dad, Lonny Frye, and Erik Paulsrud are the guys behind the bacon.
“It’s the first year without bacon since ’99,” Paulsrud said.
Lonny Frye said they started giving out bacon at his house, but when the course moved a few years back, they moved to Paulsrud’s property on Walnut.
“People have been asking all morning, ‘Where’s the bacon?'” Paulsrud said. “We just wanted to relax and enjoy the race instead of making bacon all morning.”
Frye promised to bring the bacon back for the 2012 Bolder Boulder.
“Especially if bacon prices fall,” he said. “I think I bought 25 pounds of bacon last year.”