Saturday, November 26, 2011

Running around Denver

Yep, another flat tire - Photo courtesy Google Images
I really love bike riding. Do you know the scene in the 1998 movie, “City of Angels,” where Maggie Rice (Meg Ryan) is riding her bike down the street filled with post-love-making rapture from a night spent with Seth (Nicolas Cage); she is experiencing the wind blowing through her hair and on her face, she closes her eyes in joy and stretches her arms out to the side as if she is flying? Well, that is how I feel about bike riding - just skip that next part of the scene where a truck pulls out in front of her and she dies. That happened to me too once, but I am still here. Since my accident, I don’t flirt with vehicular traffic much anymore. Colliding with a car is not something I ever want to do again. I try to stay on the walking/biking trails so ubiquitous and prevalent in Denver; they can transport me along Cherry Creek Trail all the way to Confluence Park downtown and beyond. This wondrous network of trails keeps me pretty much out of harm’s way. 
However, there is another problem that constantly deflates my joy of bike riding – it is the annoying flat tire. It is a gorgeous 60 degree day; I grab my bike in the garage and rush to mount it and before I am halfway down the street I know one of the tires is out of air – hiss, thud, thump, thud, thump. Oh, I know all about the green goop and thorn-resistant inner tubes, but the trouble is the air seeps out anyway (as with all forms of technology there will be mechanical failure at some point). So, at this point in my day, I put the bike back into the garage and start to walk or jog. The only equipment I need is a comfortable sneaker and the willingness to put one foot in front of the other - pretty easy and free of frustration. OK, maybe the wind blowing my hair scenario isn’t the same as bike riding but there’s little danger and no flat tires.  
Start of the 5K Race for Fetal Hope - Photo courtesy of Julie Powell
Denver, Colorado, has trails and parks aplenty for walking, jogging, rollerblading, or biking, and it ranks high on the list of the “fittest cities in America” because of this. The fittest cities list is comprised from several criteria: it looks at the number of recreational facilities available in a community (parks, pools, golf courses, bike paths); public transportation that offers commuters a chance to bike or walk part of the distance to work; obesity, diabetes and smoking habits of the population; exercise and eating habits of the citizens; and access to health care and health insurance. In 2008 and 2010 Denver was ranked first by Travel and Leisure magazine as the “fittest city” in America. Recently, the final report of the American Fitness Index (AFI) and Fitness Magazine ranked Denver 5th. Throw in a few other variables like 300+ days of sunshine a year, a high and dry climate, and the largest park system in the lower 48 states – one can understand why Denver offers its citizens a grand place to get out and exercise. And the “mile high city” even made the list of “top ten cities with the biggest parks in the world” – yes, the world (see! Many Olympic athletes train in the area to take advantage of the red corpuscle-building environment being one mile higher than other cities in the U.S.
For those of you who would like to test your mettle there is always a little race going on at some park almost every week, whether it is a one mile family fun run, a 5K, 10K, half marathon or marathon – there is an event for many levels of training and ability. In Monument, the Nielsen Challenge is 2 mile run held the first Saturday of every month. Here you first establish a handicap time and thereafter run to improve on it. Most folks new to jogging can muster up the strength (or courage) to run for two miles; it is an attainable goal.
A woman I know quite well (I will call herTillie) entered a 5k walk/run for charity held at City Park earlier in the month. Tillie and her husband regularly walk 3-5 miles a day, 6 days a week, so this was not a big deal for either of them. They walked and jogged the 5K and left fulfilled. Two days later, Tillie was dumb-founded when she discovered she had won first place in her age division along with close to $400 in prizes and gifts – one of them was a $100 gift certificate to Mind, Body, and Sole for new running shoes. This race had a small field (around 600 entrants) and she thought it was just a fluke. The following week she entered another 5K with 3000 participants at Washington Park and won that division split as well. Now Tillie says she will run for food (well, prizes really). All this for putting one foot in front of the other. Go girl!
Feels fabulous to finish a race - Photo courtesy of Julie Powell
There are many ways to run (or walk) around Denver, see the list of local parks and the schedule for upcoming races below:

Denver Trails and Parks:

Racing Calenders:


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