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Running season is right around the corner. No matter your goals for this season, 5280's guide will make you prepared to go the distance. Image via Getty Images

The Ultimate Guide to Running in Colorado

Make sure you’re prepared—whether your goal is notching that first 5K or your inaugural marathon—with this guide to pounding the pavement (and having fun doing it).

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What Kind Of Runner Are You?

Find out what kind of race is right for you by answering these three questions. Then consult our pocket guide below to get started.

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Pocket Training Guides

We tapped Denver-area running coaches and clubs to put together these pocket guides to training for your race.

5K

10K

Twain Wilkins
You might be closer than you think to your next race. Photograph courtesy of Twain Wilkins

13.1

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26.2

The Right Race

If the BolderBoulder (Memorial Day weekend, by the way) is the only Colorado run you’ve ever heard of, this decision chart will help you determine which event best matches your expectations.

Which race is right for you?

Find Your Footwear

Even if you’re a flatfooted, overpronating Cinderella, there’s a sneaker out there for you. Boulder Running Company’s footwear specialists helped us narrow the field.

Asics GT-2000
The Asics GT-2000. Photograph by Sarah Boyum

If You: Have Overpronation Issues
Try: A stability shoe like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS or Asics GT-2000
Because: Stability shoes have firmer foam on the medial side, which can help prevent your ankle from rolling inward (aka overpronating).

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Saucony Guide
The Saucony Guide. Photograph courtesy of Saucony

If You: Have Plantar Fasciitis
Try: A shoe with a stiff midsole and forefoot, such as the New Balance 860v6 or Saucony Guide (make sure there’s room for the insert your doc will likely fit you with)
Because: Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the band of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes. Shoes with stiff midsoles and forefeet provide extra cushioning and can help prevent the big toe from bending back too much (dorsiflexion) and further stretching the plantar fascia

New Balance 1260v6
The New Balance 1260v6. Photography courtesy of New Balance

If You: Have Flat, Flexible Feet
Try: Motion-control shoes such as the Saucony Omni or New Balance 1260v6
Because: Motion-control shoes often are built on a straighter “last” (shoe mold) and thus have a lower arch. (And flatfooters also tend to have problems with overpronation.)

Altra
Shoes from Altra are better for wide feet. Photograph courtesy of Altra

If You: Have Wide Feet
Try: Shoes that come with a wider toe box, like most footwear from Altra (creator of the FootShape toe box) or Brooks’ Ghost line
Because: A wider toe box gives your phalanges more room to spread out with every step.

Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 7
The Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 7. Photograph courtesy of Adidas

If You: Have High Arches
Try: A neutral shoe like the Adidas Supernova or Nike Flyknit Lunar 3
Because: Neutral shoes generally are built with higher arches than stability and motion-control shoes, which you’ll want to avoid anyway since runners with high arches also often struggle with underpronation (supination).

Hoka One One
Pretty much anything from Hoka One One will provide more cushion. Photograph courtesy of Hoka One One

If You: Are An Ultrarunner
Try: Shoes with pumped-up cushioning, like just about anything from Hoka One One
Because: Hoka’s puffed-up soles have made it a favorite among the 50-plus-mile set. But all that padding doesn’t necessarily mean the shoes last any longer, so you’ll still need to replace your kicks every 300 to 500 miles.

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Runners bathroom
Be careful what you put into your body before a race, as running tends to intensify your urge to…well, go. Image via iStock

What They Don’t Tell You

When you run more than a 10K, weird stuff happens. Here, the things no one talks about but almost everyone experiences.

Going number two often will be priority number one. For somewhat unknown reasons (seriously, researchers can’t agree), running long distances seems to put the squeeze on organs involved in digestion. Translation: You gotta go. Right. Now. Experienced runners have learned what foods/gels/liquids set their GI tracts off and avoid them in the days before and the mornings of big runs, lest they end up squatting in mortification on a neighbor’s lawn—something that actually happened to one runner with whom we spoke. Caffeine can exacerbate the effect, which makes us wonder: Whoever thought espresso-flavored energy gel was a good idea?

Your pedicurist is going to hate you. Ever looked closely at a runner’s feet? The constant rubbing and pressure of shoes can traumatize the nail, causing it to separate from the nail plate, become discolored, and eventually fall off. (If you’ve really done damage, the nail might grow back thicker.) The official term for this is “onycholysis.” The unofficial term for it is “tip well.”

Body Glide is your best friend. Log enough miles with the seam of your sports bra or shorts rubbing against you—or your thighs touching when you run—and you could end up with some ugly welts. Sometimes, the friction from just fabric, even without a seam, chafing against sensitive skin can create painful situations (read: bleeding nipples). A lube like Body Glide will protect delicate areas from such indignities.

Running is cheap. Being a runner is not. All you need is shoes, right? Well, yeah. But those shoes only last 400 miles or so, which means once you start logging more than a couple of miles each time you go out, you’re probably going to have to replace your shoes every few months. Plus, there are race fees, which range from about $30 to $130. And then you’ll need a hydration system (belt, backpack, etc.). And more socks, shorts, shirts, and sports bras (all made of wicking material, of course) than your closet has room for. And a watch with a timer, heart rate monitor, and GPS tracking system. Ah, hell, just get an Apple Watch.

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Slow and steady
Image via iStock

A Slow Runner’s Confession

What do you run for when you’re not racing the clock?

It pains me to admit this, but I am a slow runner. Others might say that to be modest, but I mean it. I’m the lady moving along at such a plodding pace that drivers slow to verify I’m not stroking out midstride. When I ran the four-mile Loveland Sweetheart Classic five years ago, I was passed by almost everyone. That’s the story of nearly all of the races I have ever entered. Most other athletic endeavors have a self-sorting mechanism. (People like me don’t get invited to join Ultimate Frisbee leagues, for example.) But not so in running. I can plunk down the $130 entry fee just as well as the six-minute milers. I will never finish in the top half of my age group, much less actually win a race, but frankly, I don’t care—because after hundreds of self-flagellating 11:30-minute miles, I have realized it doesn’t matter that I’m the slowest. There’s a larger purpose to running than beating the pack.

The point is the nakedness. Running strips away my spit-polished varnish and leaves me with just guts. I can’t bluff my way through 10 miles, but I keep trying, and that refusal to quit is the very thing that keeps me lacing up my Asics. For me, running is about coming to terms with doing something I’m not good at. It’s about proving my own mental toughness. And I don’t need a bib number for that. So I stopped racing. I stopped using a tracker—no Garmin or running app announcing that Methuselah has lapped me. Today, I honestly don’t know how fast or far I’m going when I set out from my Fort Collins home; I just know that I’m committed to doing it. As the weeks pass, I find that every few days, I can run one street farther before stopping. And that’s all the motivation—and finish line—I need. —Corey Radman


Local Love: Gear Picks From Pro Athletes

The Centennial State’s top runners tell us about the Colorado gear they can’t live without.

Sage Canaday, 31, Boulder
Professional mountain-ultra-trail runner for Hoka One One
Activacuity app

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This app, which was developed in Estes Park, guides athletes through a series of visualizations and exercises to improve mental discipline and sports performance. “The mental side of my sport is huge,” Canaday says. “You have to be mentally tough to push the body to its limit.” —KF

Roll Recovery
Deep-tissue massage roller from Roll Recovery. Photograph courtesy of Roll Recovery

Jeffrey Eggleston, 32, Boulder
Member of the U.S. team at the past three International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships
R8 deep-tissue massage roller from Roll Recovery, $119

Eggleston calls this his “portable massage therapist,” and he uses the Boulder company’s roller daily to flush toxins from his muscles and break up adhesions after difficult sessions. —Kim Fuller

Iron Doggy
Hands-free dog leash from Iron Doggy. Photograph courtesy of Iron Doggy

Neely Gracey, 27, Boulder
Professional distance runner for Adidas
SideKick hands-free dog leash from Iron Doggy, $43

Gracey takes her “easy” runs with her vizsla, Strider, and this Denver-born hands-free leash with a sliding snap hook that adjusts with Strider’s movements makes workouts with her four-legged bestie much smoother (and thus, more enjoyable). —KF

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OutThere USA
Hip pack from OutThere USA. Photograph courtesy of OutThere USA

Ellen Miller, 58, Vail
Coach for the U.S. Women’s Mountain Running Team
HP-1 hip pack from OutThere USA, $54

This lightweight hip pack, designed in Vail, holds two water bottles and comes with practical ventilation features and storage options, making it an ideal choice for long runs, when, as Miller says, “light is right.” —KF


Annie runs through Downtown Denver
Downtown Denver has some solid routes for the urban runner. Photograph by Scott Clark

LoDo Lunch Runs

Life can get in the way of morning or post-work runs. That’s what the lunch hour was made for. And Strava, an app that gives you access to user-submitted routes, like these midday options that leave from the heart of LoDo.

1.5 Mile Power Walk Map
Map by Sean Parsons

The 1.5-Mile Power Walk

The Route: Any bite-size piece of the Cherry Creek Trail offers those working up to a 5K a pretty place to power walk or jog, but the section between the bridge at Wewatta Street and Sculpture Park (1.5 miles out and back) also promises peeks at public art.

Lunch from Bubu
Troy Guard’s fast-and-fresh Bubu. Photograph by Sarah Boyum

The Reward: Pull off at Larimer and pick up lunch to go from Troy Guard’s fast-and-fresh Bubu. Choose from eight bowls—try the OG Colorado: quinoa, carrots, green chile, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and house dressing—made with your choice of grain (rice or noodles) or salad and protein, from tofu to chicken thigh.

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3-mile run map
Map by Sean Parsons

The Three-Miler

The Route: From Union Station, head south on Wewatta Street to 15th Street. Continue west to Confluence Park and connect with the South Platte River Trail. The flat mile or so from here to the Broncos’ stadium is blissfully traffic-free (and largely devoid of humans), letting you maintain a steady pace. Turn around at the bridge near Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and consider returning on the other side of the river. These scenic miles will help you reset your brain for the second half of your workday.

Honor Society
Honor Society. Photograph by Sarah Boyum

The Reward: Honor Society’s commitment to locally grown ingredients and healthy fare ensures that no matter what you put on your custom-built salad/sandwich/plate (we like the Verlasso salmon on a bed of kale, apples, raisins, carrots, candied walnuts, and miso vinaigrette), you’re treating your body right.

5-mile run map
Map by Sean Parsons

High(land) Five

The Route: Gain a bit of distance (and elevation) by leaving LoDo by way of 20th Street near Coors Field. Veer right at the junction with Little Raven Street and follow it to the City of Cuernavaca Park, where you’ll switch to the path on the west side of the green space. Pass under I-25 to where the path links up with Inca Street. In a block, turn left onto 37th Street and start your gradual climb. You’ll reach the high point just after you turn left onto Clay Street. In about six blocks, Clay becomes West Dunkeld Place, and you’ll start your descent. Take a right on Zuni Street and then a left on 29th Street a block later. Six more blocks deliver you to 15th Street, where you’ll stay to the right for a straight shot back into downtown.

Protein Bar
Protein Bar. Photograph by Sarah Boyum

The Reward: You’ve gobbled up most of your lunch hour with this route, so swing by the Protein Bar near Union Station for a super-fast meal you can take back to the office. The tangy Classic Buffalo Bar-rito provides you with 460 calories and 44 grams of protein—and pairs well with one of the Pressery’s cold-pressed juices.

Woman drinking water
Think it’s impossible to overhydrate? Think again. Below are some common myths—busted. Image via iStock

Myth Bustin’: The Running Edition

Five truisms about running and training that aren’t, well, true.

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Faster Is Better

Maybe for sprinters. Longer, slower training runs actually develop endurance better than high-intensity training, according to Dr. Iñigo San Millán, director for sports performance at the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center. He should know; he’s worked with world-class athletes around the globe (including Tour de France winners), using a scientific approach to building endurance. “We’re targeting mitochondria because they are the key to everything,” he says. “They preserve glycogen and burn lactate.” Both of those things are crucial to improving your fitness. The real-world application? You can improve your mitochondria by doing longer runs (at least an hour) at very specific heart rates—usually well below your max heart rate.

You Can’t Overhydrate During A Long Race

Au contraire. If you overconsume water to such an extent that it throws off your sodium balance, you’re susceptible to hyponatremia, a serious condition that can cause the brain and other organs to swell, resulting in seizures, comas, and even death. Yes, we said death.

I’m Sore The Day After A Workout Because Of Lactic Acid

No, you’re not. Lactic acid, a byproduct of intense exercise, dissipates within minutes, San Millán says. (That “burn” you feel when your muscles are maxing out? That’s lactic acid.) If you’re sore the day after a workout, it’s probably because you created microtears in the muscles and they’re inflamed. That’s also how we build muscle, by the way, so just give them a couple of days to heal and hit it again.

Running Is The Best Way To Lose Weight

Running is certainly one way to lose weight, but it might not be the most efficient. To hit the fat-burning zone, you need to run for about an hour at a relatively low heart rate (as a percentage of your max). Heavier folks often exceed this rate because the extra weight they’re carrying means they’re working harder even when going slower, San Millán explains. And then there’s the concern over joints that may not be very happy with extended periods of running. So swimming and cycling might be better options.

Carbohydrates Are Evil

Actually, carbs are necessary. We store carbs in our body as glycogen (in our muscles and liver). That’s our fuel. If you don’t have enough glycogen, San Millán says, your body will start using muscle as fuel, essentially cannibalizing itself. The key here is that the body can store only about one pound of glycogen at a time; anything in excess of that is converted into fat. So as long as you stop after one or two Girl Scout cookies, you’re probably safe.

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Superhuman
It’s not just your imagination: Runners in Colorado are superhuman

Superhuman: The science behind training at elevation.

Why Colorado runners are already at an advantage.

The first time I went for a run when visiting my parents in Cornelius, Oregon—elevation: 179 feet—after moving to Denver, I thought my watch was broken. I’d smoked my standard per-mile pace by close to two minutes. The source of my newfound superpower—and yours—has nothing to do with a cape or radioactive spider, though. It has everything to do with a hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO. (If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because synthetic EPO was one of the key substances in the Tour de France doping scandal in the early 2000s.) When your body registers a lack of oxygen, EPO triggers the production of more red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the muscles. So when you train—or just live—at elevation, you produce more red blood cells, says Dr. Iñigo San Millán, director for sports performance at the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center. And since red blood cells have a lifespan of more than a month, you’ll enjoy the benefit of your “superpower” for at least a couple of weeks, even if you remain at lower elevation.
—Kasey Cordell

An Abridged History Of Colorado Running

A timeline of racing in Colorado, from miner days to modern times.

1908

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Silverton miner Neil McQuieg establishes the foundations of what will become—in 1978—the Kendall Mountain Run when he runs to the top of the 13,066-foot peak on a bet.

Monte Wolford
Monte Wolford, winner of the first Pikes Peak Marathon. Photograph courtesy of Pikes Peak Marathon

1956

Monte Wolford wins the inaugural Pikes Peak Marathon in a time of 5:39:58.

1964

Even before all of America becomes obsessed with recreational road running, Denver debuts the Denver Marathon (later known as the Mile High Marathon and the Mayor’s Cup Marathon).

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1972

Boulder resident Frank Shorter wins gold in the marathon at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He’ll take home silver in the 1976 Games in Montreal.

1977

Rick Trujillo wins his fifth consecutive Pikes Peak Marathon.

Bolder Boulder
In 2017, more than 50,000 runners are expected to participate in the Bolder Boulder 10K. Photogrpah courtesy of Bolder Boulder

1979

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Roughly 2,700 runners join the inaugural BolderBoulder. (In 2017, more than 50,000 are expected to run the 10K.) The now-renowned running club Boulder Road Runners is established the same year.

1983

Kenneth Chlouber and Merilee Maupin create the Leadville Trail 100 run, a body- and soul-crushing ultra race through the Rockies that gains and loses more than 15,000 feet over 100 miles.

Ellen Hart
Photograph courtesy of Ellen Hart

1984

Coloradan Ellen Hart finishes 11th at the U.S. Marathon Trials. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics marks the first year women are allowed to compete in the marathon (12 years after the first woman officially ran in the Boston Marathon).

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1992

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure comes to Colorado for the first time. Since then, Komen Colorado has raised close to $15 million for breast cancer research.

1993

The Denver International Marathon fizzles after its inaugural year, still owing vendors (including police) and race winners more than $100,000.

2002

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Fort Collins hosts the first Colorado Marathon.

Colfax Marathon
Photograph courtesy of Marathon Foto

2006

The Colfax Marathon debuts in May and hosts the U.S. National Wheelchair Marathon Championships.

2014

Adams State University runner and Cañon City native Tabor Stevens breaks the record for the mile time (4:01.27) in Colorado at the La Junta Tiger Relays.

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Three Local Social Media Feeds Runners Should Follow

Scott Jurek
Photograph courtesy of Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek

If you want the occasional vegan recipe to go along with your training tips, Scott Jurek is your guy. An ultrarunning legend and best-selling author (Eat and Run), Jurek cultivates a beautiful and informative Insta-stream from his Boulder base. Follow Scott Jurek on Instagram.

Roots Running Project

This Boulder-based running group trains Olympic hopefuls and other elites like Alia Gray, Margaret Connelly, and the mustachioed marathon sensation Noah Droddy. If Roots’ inspirational and beautifully shot Instagram feed doesn’t get you off the couch, nothing will. Follow Roots Running Project on Instagram.

Run The Edge
Photograph courtesy of Run The Edge

Run The Edge

Olympic distance runner and Boulder resident Adam Goucher launched this website (and Instagram feed) with fellow runner Tim Catalano following their 2011 book, Running the Edge. The goal: motivation and training through community support and virtual challenges. Follow Run The Edge on Instagram

Group Therapy
Photograph courtesy of Aden Holt

Group Therapy

For many of us, the hardest part of training isn’t gutting out that last mile; it’s lacing up our shoes in the first place. Fortunately Denver has dozens of running groups, so finding folks to hold you accountable—and have fun with—is easy. All you have to do is determine what motivates you.

I’m Looking For…a community

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Rocky Mountain Road Runners: One of Denver’s oldest and largest road-running clubs, RMRR hosts races on the first Sunday of every month. The locations and distances vary, but your $35 annual membership gains you entry to all 12 and—if you’re up for it—RMRR’s Wednesday night track workouts.

Denver Trail Runners: DTR doesn’t like to be called a club—there are no dues and no waivers to sign. Organized by volunteers, this group meets Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings (check the Facebook page for locations) for 60- to 90-minute trail runs, typically in the foothills. Pace groups set out together and regroup at major trail junctions—so don’t call DTR’s events races, either.

Achilles International: Founded in New York in 1983 by the first amputee to run the New York City Marathon, Achilles International has more than 100 chapters in 40 countries. The Denver branch of this nonprofit has been pairing able-bodied runners with those with disabilities on weekly Monday night runs at Wash Park since 2013.

I’m Looking For…a killer workout

Denver Track Club: While this five-year-old club caters primarily to adults who want to relive their college track glory days, DTC’s Tuesday night and Saturday morning speed and tempo workouts will up your road (or trail) game, too.

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Runner’s Edge Of The Rockies: If you want to check out the training style of this group—which competitor.com twice named Best Running Club in the Mountain West region—before paying $295 in quarterly dues, try a Saturday run. The long, leg-testing jaunts (usually 10 to 20 miles in the metro area) come with marked routes, aid stations, and more than 10 pace groups.

Revolution Running: Another competitor.com pick for Best Running Club in the Mountain West, Louisville-based Revolution offers a catalog of training programs, from a nine-week beginner course ($89) that’ll get you prepped for your first 5K or 10K to personalized marathon training ($110 per month).

I’m Looking For…Beer

Highland Tap And Burger Run Club: This Wednesday night club’s 10K run through historic Highland departs at 6:15. The 5K leaves at 6:30. That means the dozens of Denverites who regularly attend the HTB run—which happens year-round in rain, shine, snow, or single-digit temps—get back around the same time to enjoy a free pasta-and-salad dinner and 20 percent off beer together.

Wash Park Pub Run: The popular Wash Park Pub Run also takes place on Wednesday nights. The three-mile-or-so route here rarely changes (through the neighborhood, around Wash Park, and back) because, well, if ain’t broke…. Overachievers can add mileage on their own, but they’ll want to be back before the free catered supper at Pub On Pearl and prizes are gone

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Colorado Brewery Running Series:This Minnesota-born series came to Denver in 2016 and starting this month will again offer frequent weekend morning runs departing from breweries such as Ratio Beerworks and Cerebral Brewing. Each 5K “unrace” (there are no timing chips or winners) costs $30 but comes with a free beer, souvenir pint glass, and—hopefully—new friends.

Rest-Day Rehab

The most important training day of the week is the one you take off. Here are seven ways to recover when you take a zero (as in, zero miles).
https://www.thinglink.com/scene/903341360860364803

Race-Day Recs

First time at a starting line? Our experts provide tips for your best shot at success.

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No new anything: Race day is not the day to try out new sneakers. And the night before is definitely not the time to check out that new Indian joint. Stick to what you know.

Keep it casual: Most races offer race packet pickup on the days before, so all you have to worry about the morning of is finding parking. Which reminds us: Give yourself at least an hour before race time to get parked, checked in, and warmed up—and make one last trip to the porta-potty.

Rein it in for the first mile: You’re going to get a surge of adrenaline when you cross the starting line. Fight the temptation to turn that into a faster pace. The first mile—essentially your warm-up—should be your slowest mile.

Wear a shirt you don’t mind ditching: While a few large races will pick up clothing discarded along the route for collection later, most simply donate it.

Have “the talk:” If you’ve been training with a partner, make sure you discuss what to do if one of you is having an off day (or a great day!): Stay together or go your separate ways? Seriously, friendships have ended over this stuff.

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Have three goals: There are a lot of variables on race day—the weather, a crowded start, that cold you picked up the day before…. Coach Jenni Nettik suggests using a tiered goal system for your race: a best-case scenario goal, a back-up goal if today isn’t the best-case scenario, and a third goal for the minimum you’ll be happy with.

What I Learned

Miles of advice from some of Colorado’s best runners.

Kim Dobson
Kim Dobson. Photograph courtesy of Joe Vigor

“Don’t sacrifice the skin on your ankles by wearing low ‘no socks’ just to avoid a sock tan line.”—Kim Dobson, 32, Eagle

Recent achievements: Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon champion in 2015 (the only woman to have ever won both the ascent and marathon races in the same weekend)

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“Consistency and patience can take you far. Being consistent with running, weights, rehab, massage, sleep, food, and hydration all adds up. Every day is important.”—Emma Coburn, 26, Crested Butte

Recent achievement: Set an American record of 9:07.63 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase to win a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games

“Be lean and mean, but also be healthy. There is a fine balance between fast and healthy.”—Andy Wacker, 28, Boulder

Recent achievements: 2015 U.S. 50K trail champion; 2016 U.S. trail half-marathon champion

“It is very easy to wear too much. Arm sleeves with two shirts, gloves, a pair of tights, and a beanie is usually my go-to for anything under 30 degrees.”—Brandon Johnson, 29, Boulder

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Recent achievement: Won the 2016 BolderBoulder citizens race in 30:34

“I really believe in the adage to ‘keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy.’ I’ve learned to respect this dichotomy of intensities: work hard, recover, repeat.”—Jeffrey Eggleston, 32, Boulder

Recent achievements: Made the past three consecutive IAAF World Championship teams for the United States (Daegu 2011, Moscow 2013, and Beijing 2015)

Joe Gray
Joe Gray. Photograph courtesy of Christy Gray

“When nature calls, as a last resort, it’s better to lose a sock than risk using an unknown leaf.”—Joe Gray, 33, Colorado Springs

Recent achievement: 2016 World Mountain Running champion

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“Focus each day on being a bit better than you were the day before; keep a training log to track progress.”—Neely Gracey, 27, Boulder

Recent achievement: Top American woman in the 2016 Boston Marathon, placing ninth overall for women

“Write down your goals. Be humble. Do the training. Rest, recovery, and moderation are important to an aging athlete. Have fun, and never take yourself too seriously.”—Blondie Vucich, 68, Vail

Recent achievements: Big Sur Marathon 2016 age group winner and new course record holder (previously set in 1993)

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