Magnolia Road

There are plenty of famous training routes in Boulder, but the one that I appreciate the most is Magnolia Road. "Mags" was probably always famous to some, but it received a lot of attention (on my end at least) after Chris Lear wrote Running with the Buffaloes. Lear documented the University of Colorado's Sunday long runs up and down Magnolia Road. Magnolia starts as a paved road rising above Boulder Canyon, but 4.5 miles up it turns from pavement to dirt and continues for another 7.5 miles to the Peak-to-Peak Highway above Nederland, Colorado. From there you can cross the highway and run another 3K to the the turnaround, but most folks choose to turn around once they reach the Peak-to-Peak highway.

The topography of the run is quite challenging. You begin atop a hill at 8200 feet before descending down to 8000 feet (the lowest point of the run). From there you stair step up to 8700 feet to the highway. If you run from the start of the dirt to the highway and back you will have run 15 miles with 1200 feet of ascending and descending; all of which will be above 8000 feet.

I first started running Magnolia Road in 2005 when I came to Boulder and it became a weekly staple throughout the summer. I often get a strong sense of "supposed to" when I go up there.


There are times when I train when I feel as though I am doing exactly what I am "supposed to" be doing to improve. Mags is one of those sessions that only requires that you show up. From there the road will give you the stimulus you need. Should you decide to go out too hard it will send you home humbled, but if you complete it you will ultimately become a fitter athlete.

I have never considered myself to be overly obsessed with data, but I have every split from every run on Magnolia recorded in my log. Yesterday I ran Magnolia for the first time this season and PRed the session by more than three minutes. More importantly, I did it by 'just running' and not by hammering. The splits are only relevant when you have a lot of data to go by (because of the climbing and elevation), but after four years the splits are actually starting to resemble ones from a 'real' run. Hopefully we can expect to see more where that came from as the weeks roll by towards Ironman Canada.

Summer is almost here,