In 1979, Cliff Bosley, then 12 years old and in sixth grade, had his first job: standing at a folding table at the back of Frank Shorter’s running store and registering runners for the BolderBOULDER, a race his father started. “Payment was a really tasty sandwich from the deli next door,” he remembers. The race that started over three decades ago has grown up quite a bit—the field has expanded from 2,700 runners to over 54,000—but the same things that made first race successful continue to help the BolderBOULDER thrive. Here, Bosley shares some of his top tips:
Hire mindfully. “Be sure you hire the correct staffers, not just available people. You want people who fit with the organization, have a calling to the race, and will jive well with current employees. There isn’t a special question to ask, but being a self-starter is huge; when you are a small operation, you need to be sure people are good at knowing what needs to be done without an hourly reminder.”
Think two or three years down the line—and anticipate the twentieth domino. “From years one to three, we doubled in growth. Operations and procedures had to change quickly, and we created a culture where we were always forward looking: just because one thing worked this year, we can’t take for granted that it will work next year.
It’s easy to predict what will happen if the first or second domino in the chain falls—think bad weather or a street closure—but what about when something entirely unexpected happens? Think about every place where a runner will be touched: expo, traffic, parking, access, corrals, and so on and so on. You can’t overthink the details.”
A shorter race doesn’t necessarily mean a lesser experience. “The BolderBOULDER originated during the first running boom, which more focused on speed than endurance. Even though the half-marathon and marathon distances get more press now, the 5K and 10K distances are still inviting to many people for a variety of reasons. Don’t overlook that. Our battle cry is Oh Yes You Can!: a phrase that means something different to everybody. It may be a PR or beating your neighbor, running the full course without walking, participating to honor the Veterans.”
Release your shirt design early. “More and more people are deciding their race calendars early in the year, so the sooner you can entice them, the better. We send out a campaign with our new shirt image in January so people get excited to start training and they’re sufficiently ready to run in May.”
Recruit the youth. “We have a 10-week program that helps middle school prepare for the BolderBOULDER. It started in 1994, when we observed that there were a lot of younger participants who were running without adequate preparation. The program grew quickly. We now have about 100 schools, and over 2,500 kids in the program. A teacher leads the program, and we offer the athletes special incentives from our sponsors, a special shirt, and a discounted registration fee for them. They also get their own special wave for starting and prizes for participation numbers. It’s a great way to introduce whole families to the running lifestyle—and dispel the notion that running is only used for punishment for screwing off in gym class.”
Avoid traffic circles. “One year, after traffic circles became a permanent fixture on some of the streets on the route, we had to move the course. The circles, of course, are designed to slow cars down. Turns out, they do the same thing to a race.”