• Interview with Cliff Bosley - Race Director of BolderBoulder

    Interview: Cliff Bosley, Race Director, Bolder Boulder

    Cliff, thanks for joining the RunColo Blog series, tell us a little about yourself and how you became the Race Director for BolderBoulder?

    My father, Steve Bosley is the founder and creator of the BolderBOULDER. I was 12 years old when the race was born, I have two younger brothers and two younger sisters, and we all grew up around running and around the BolderBOULDER. I have had the opportunity to run, work and/or volunteer for every race since it started (some years I got to do all three).

    For my first job, along with my next younger sister, Elizabeth, we worked weekends and after school at Frank Shorter Sports on Pearl Street mall, in the back of the store at a small remote counter registering participants for the 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982 races.

    Then, while I was in college, the spring semester would generally conclude in early May, I would return from school to work for the race. I worked for the race director at the time, Lance Enholm (my father was the Exec Race Director) to assist him during the month of May with anything he'd throw my way, warehouse work (cleaning trash cans, painting signs, repairing equipment, requisitioning equipment, picking up trash), race related errands, work on the barricade crew, loading trucks, unloading trucks, hanging banners and signs, training volunteer groups, etc. etc. etc…it was awesome, I loved the work, the more there was to do, the better!

    When I graduated from college I got hired to work for The Bank of Boulder (the founding sponsor of the race) in a department that did special promotions, one of the promotions was the race, so one of my jobs 3 months a year was the BolderBOULDER during my eight years at the bank I got to be involved in many marketing jobs at the bank and a number of different aspects of the race (registration, logistics, sponsors, marketing) during that period I had the opportunity to start and direct a bicycle event, beginning in 1994 for five years, called the Bolder Bicycle Classic (the event has since been resurrected and was given to CU and is now called the Buffalo Bicycle Classic) in 1998 my father retired from the bank and he determined that the race should be operated separate from the bank, and it was at that time that he asked me if I would like to lead the race. I responded immediately and emphatically, YES!

    BolderBoulder is consistently one of the biggest races in America. I believe Peachtree is the only 10K larger. Do you feel compelled to chase numbers each year for the biggest title?

    No. It's cool to be on the list of the largest races, but it's not our intent to be the biggest or for that matter to even grow. I guess that if we do things right more will come, so while as good business people we need to be prepared for growth, but it is not our intent, that said, there are other races that have and deserve the notoriety of biggest. We'd just like to keep staging the BolderBOULDER at the highest level possible and to do things that continue to improve the experience and of all of the participants and to continue to benefit the community and be involved in a meaningful way in the sport of running. It is humbling and honoring that last year 54,000 people decided to participate and to be a part of the BolderBOULDER.

    Maybe because it is so big, it seems that BolderBoulder really is "evertyhing to everyone." Up front, BolderBoulder is easily the fastest and most competitive race in the state. Throughout the rest of the waves, everyone else's goals are met too, those that want to party through a 10K can, those that want to run as part of Memorial Day in memory of someone can, etc. I know you attribute a lot of this to the wave system, but is there anything else in the race's marketing and image that you try to do to create this atmosphere? Or has the race really just developed its own reputation over the years that bring so many people out?

    In the era when we started, there was tension in many races between staging a great race for the average fitness runners, or a great pro-race (then it was called a race for the "elite" runners because of the amateur status problems and eligibility). Out of respect for what these athletes are, most races now use the description of "Pro" BolderBOULDER from the start, was designed to encompass both with specific intent to make each stronger because there was not mutual exclusivity. So, the thousands of stories within the race can unfold while one of the world's premier pro fields race on the same course on the same day. And, the vast majority of those stories are never made public, they just quietly happen. These elements and the stories have evolved out of the battle cry of the race "Oh yes you can!" which has been used since the first race in 1979 to challenge, inspire, reward, affirm and reiterate what the experience at the race is about the participant's whether you race, run, jog, walk, complete the race without stopping, set a PR, beat your neighbor, beat your age, place in your age group, or whatever. "Oh yes you can!"

    Last year Beijing Olympic marathoners Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor ran in the elite race. I'm sure the race had to put up some appearance money for them to run?

    We've been resolute since the beginning not to pay appearance money to athletes, and equally as committed that we'll pay for performance and performance only. This is an athletic event, and the great thing about sports is that finally it is performance that is measured. Therefore, we incent performance by offering a large and deep prize pool (the BolderBOULDER has paid out one of the largest prize money purses for non-marathon distances) and since the inception of the International Team Challenge we've paid out close to $1.5 million in prize money. Also, last year we voluntarily added a time bonus incentive component which awarded every man running sub 30:00 and every women running sub 34:00 to earn time bonus money. In addition, for USA athletes we also provide a bonus incentive through the BolderBOULDER USA Olympic Development Prize Fund (these are funds BolderBOULDER provides, no monies come from the Olympics, it is just called USA Development- for the obvious reasons), where we pay multiples of the prize money earned. Our bonus formula starts with a 100% bonus and the better the performance, the bigger the multiple, all the way to 200%. In 2008, we created a special Olympic Incentive, and we paid yet another additional bonus to any of USA athletes racing BB who qualified for the Olympics at the USA trials. While we are committed to rewarding all athletes for their performance, we are committed to continue offering additional incentives to Americans.

    While it may show some naivete, I think most spectators were probably a little disappointed that neither contended for the win.
    We know that racing a spring marathon makes a successful BolderBOULDER tougher. Both Deena and Ryan raced spring marathons last year, Deena raced Boston which was the Olympic Marathon Trials race and Ryan raced London, so they affirmed what we already knew, that attempting to race BB 5 weeks after a spring marathon is tough at best. That said, we're excited that they want to race the BolderBOULDER, and that both are interested to return in the future (Deena is racing the BolderBOULDER this year!).

    I'm sure you're aware of this, but there is lots of talk in running circles about how much revenue the race brings in. I've also heard rumors that some of the costs are astronomical also though. For instance, I've heard that it costs some $100K to rent Folsom Stadium for the finish. Further, BB10K is one of the few races on city streets in Boulder (maybe the only race other than the downtown race series). Obviously it's expensive to close down streets in Boulder. Could you comment on the costs involved in putting on a race, specifically in Boulder?

    Sure, in fact, a few years ago the Daily Camera asked us to assist them with information in order to write an article on the finances of the race. Then after it was published, we decided to post it on our website and for those who have had an interest. We have updated the costs of the race every year since then.

    Your instinct about the large cost to stage the race is correct, overall more than $2.8 million …and yes, we do have some very unusual expenses. Some of the more notable include; more than $51,000 to cover the grass on Folsom Field (other costs at CU bring that total to more than $85k), $130,000 for RFID timing, and our pro athlete related costs are almost $200,000 (prize money, pro travel, accommodations, and meals), to name a few. Often the casual observer does not think about things like liability insurance for 50,000 participants, legal and accounting costs, port-a-johns (trash and toilets), drug testing (which we have committed to continue), and the cost of the personnel to stage the race. We have a small permanent team that works year-around on marketing, sponsorships, and generally readying the operations, then in the spring we hire more than one hundred seasonal employees, and we work with a number of independent contractors and temporary staffing company employees to assist in the operation in the final weeks prior to the race.

    Another misconception is that there are costs and fees that the City of Boulder absorbs on our behalf. We pay all of the City of Boulder's and the University of Colorado expenses as a result of staging the race, so the net cost to both the City and CU is zero. The city finds it notable that the BolderBOULDER has conservatively estimated $10 million economic impact on the city, just during the Memorial Day weekend.

    We think that there is a bigger discussion. That is, our responsibility to run the organization very efficiently and fiscally responsible. (You may recall in the mid-90's the promoter of the Denver International Marathon while getting a lot of attention for the race, left town with more than $380,000 in unpaid city and prize money expenses, we never want to be in that position, so we will do everything we can to ensure we live up to our responsibilities with our vendors, the City, CU, and the people who participate.

    We also believe that part of this prudent fiscal responsibility is to build reserves, for the same basic reasons every family, business or municipality does. And of course, we cannot lose sight of the very basic rule that we cannot spend more that we take in (and we could not build a reserve).

    All of that said, we have always approached the BB with a commitment to put on a first class and premier event. We refuse to do it any other way. And yes, that commitment does add some cost to stage the event. We don't apologize for that commitment, in fact, we are quite proud to feature Boulder, through our presentation of the BolderBOULDER to the participants, to Boulder, to Colorado, to the USA, and the professional athletes from all over the world.

    Building on that last question, BolderBoulder obviously brings in several million dollars to the city every year. With so many coming into town for the race, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, gas stations, etc. all benefit from the race.

    Right, the City estimates that the BB is responsible for $10 million of economic impact during the Memorial Day Weekend.
    The city benefits from BolderBoulder for sure. Does the city work closely with the race then to ensure that the race continues to be a success year after year or does BolderBoulder have to pay just as much as any other race to close the streets?
    Yes, we have a great working relationship and we work closely with all of the city departments to ensure that we continue to stage the race in a way that is as impactful and meaningful for the community and the economic aspects while impacting the community and individual residents as little as possible. And, as I mentioned above, we pay for all city services, including police and security, so the City of Boulder has absolutely no cost.

    The Bolder Boulder offers the following choices:
    $42 T-shirt Package (available in mens, womens and kids styles)
    $46 Long Sleeve T-shirt Package (available in unisex only)
    $53 adidas Tech T Package (available in mens and womens styles)
    $58 Crocs Package (available in mens, womens and kids sizes, choice of Army Green or Sea Foam – WHICH INCLUDES A SHORT SLEEVE RACE T-SHIRT AS WELL)
    $88 BOLDER Size Package (includes T-shirt, Long Sleeve, Technical Shirt and Crocs)
    Can you tell me what the breakdown was last year for people registering and what package they took?

    You're correct, those are the registration options. Please appreciate that this information is proprietary, however, let's look at it in aggregate, which is what I think you would like to address.

    We provide a $12 senior, youth, and active military discount, and on top of that we also donate and provide more than 2,500 complimentary entries for non-profit organization's fundraisers like silent auctions, raffles, giveaways, promotions, incentives, other races; plus this includes the complimentary entries we provide to those participants who can not afford the entry fee but help us complete a pre-race job in exchange for entry to the race. For example, on Saturday before the race, we have about 400 kids who help us pack 55,000 lunches in 3 hours in exchange for a free registration (this is quite an event if you're interested to watch).

    Taking all of the package options, discounts, and comps into consideration the average entry fee revenue is roughly $38.75 per person, which allows us to generate around $2.1 million

    As you can see from our total costs, we have more than $700,000 to bridge the gap between the registration revenue and our total costs. Without sponsors this event would not be possible to stage at this level. So, you can understand why we give so much attention to and ask our participants to remember the sponsors, as the event could not happen without their involvement. Said another way, if we did not have sponsors to help us offset the costs, the average registration we’d have to charge is more than $53.

    Are you able to tell us what professional runners are lined up for 2009?

    Still working out the details, but we do know that the men's and women's defending champions (Ridouane Harroufi, MAR and Millicent Gathoni KEN) will return to race. Deena Drossin is going to race, so we're in the process of building the USA Women's team around her. Feel free to follow us on Twitter and hear more as it unfolds. http://twitter.com/bolderboulder09

    In 2008, the professional race was run on the same course that the rest of the runners raced. In previous years the professional runners ran a criterium style race. How was the change perceived?

    Overall very well, we heard from most of the participants (the 50,000) that they preferred that the professional field run the same course point to point course, so we are listening and that's what we're planning for 2009.

    What are the future plans for the BoulderBolder?

    When we discuss this in our team meetings we describe the mindset that each of us has that we want to stage the race and we want to do it the best that it can be done. We'd like for the BolderBOULDER to be the best road race and racing experience anywhere. Please note my response in question 5, last paragraph. If we can continue with this culture, and perpetuate the mindset that my father created and cultivated in the organization, that is to always look for ways to make the race better, to learn, to experiment, to innovate and (hopefully) to deliver, that's what we want. "OH YES YOU CAN"applies to the leadership team as well as the participants.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. georgezack's Avatar
      georgezack -
      Is this an older interview?
    1. ESCO's Avatar
      ESCO -
      George, it is, last year. I was moving some of the more popular content to the new site.
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