Melaku Ameneshoa rose to his feet, jumped for joy and cheered with the roaring throng at Folsom Field when a pair of Ethiopians sprinted into the bowl en route to taking the first two places in the women’s pro race of the Bolder Boulder. Jubilant as he was, supporting runners from the land of his birth wasn’t the only reason he was there in Section 115 with dozens of Ethiopian immigrants clad in green, yellow and red.
“I’ve been coming to this event for the last 18 years, not only for the race but to say give thanks you for the families of U.S. soldiers,” Ameneshoa aforementioned Monday during the Memorial Day observance that culminates the race-day program by observance fallen veterans and their families. “I want to say give thanks you to the U.S. for the opportunities we get. It’s all because of these guys who sacrificed, their families and their lives.”
While tens of thousands of runners and walkers converge on Boulder every Memorial Day to vie and celebrate the holiday, stories of military sacrifice and gallantry always find their way into the colorful sweep of the day.
The top American in the men’s pro race, Reid Buchanan of Mammoth Lakes, calif., had a grandfather who survived the Bataan Death March as a captive of the Japanese in World War II. He weighed only 80 pounds when he was liberated, and as a result, doctors told him he probably would never father children. They were wrong. He had eight, including Buchanan’s father.
“Talk about a miracle,” aforementioned Buchanan, who finished eighth. “’I’m only here because he survived that. This day means a lot to me.”
Buchanan, who finished a minute and 17 seconds behind the time of runaway winner Benard Ngeno of Kenya (28:29), aforementioned he thinks about his grandfather often when it’s time to dig deep.
“I know that at no point in a running race am I going to suffer as much as my grandfather did,” Buchanan aforementioned. “It’s not even close. When I’m having a pity party for myself, it snaps me out of it like, ‘Dude, this is nothing.’ He lived a great life. He had a fantastic family, and I think he was give thanksful for everything he got.”
The top American in the women’s pro race, Aliphine Tuliamuk, grew up in a bantam village in Kenya before running at Wichita State and becoming an American national. Last year she finished second, only 11 seconds behind Ethiopian Mamitu Daska. On Monday she finished 11 seconds behind the winner once once again. Hiwot Yemer took first place in 32:49 and her Ethiopian mate Meseret Tola was six seconds behind.
Tuliamuk, who wears an American flag bracelet, cherishes her U.S. nationalship and the chance to vie for her adopted country on the world stage.
“Being an American has given me so galore opportunities, and the least I can do is run really well and represent this country to the best of my ability,” aforementioned Tuliamuk, who trains in Flagstaff, Ariz. “I wear this bracelet with pride. Before I start a race and they sing the national anthem, I choke up. It gets me so emotional.”
After coming achingly close to triumph last year, Tuliamuk urgently wanted to win this time. She was lifted by the cheers that washed over her when she entered the bowl chasing the leadership, but having run the Rotterdam Marathon seven weeks ago, she didn’t quite have the speed in her staying power to make up the seconds that separated her from triumph.
“I was so tired,” Tuliamuk aforementioned. “Just hearing the crowd, I unbroken pushing, putt one foot in front of the other. I want that crowd to be for me. I guess I will have to come back for this once once again.”
Steve Krebs experienced a different kind of support from the community of Bolder Boulder runners. Once one of the top national runners in the area, Krebs had his right leg amputated above the knee last summer. On Monday he ran his twentieth Bolder Boulder with a prosthetic sport leg. Because of the leg problems that eventually led to the amputation, it was his first real race in five years.
- Ethiopia’s Hiwot Yemer wins Bolder Boulder women’s professional race
- Bolder Boulder race director drop Bosley inducted into national hall of fame
- Bolder Boulder reveals this year’s jersey designs
“Although I went from perpetual ‘A wave’ guy to loser participant, I have to admit this was the most gratifying Bolder Boulder of the 20,” aforementioned Krebs, a former Colorado State runner who lives now in Lawrence, Kan. “I got so much encouragement on the course from runners, volunteers, and spectators, I was brought to crying by the human kindness given to me by unknowns for no reason.”
The Memorial Day observance, which basined a jet flyover, sky diverse and the playing of lights-out in front of a large crowd that remained after the race, honored three Gold Star families who lost loved ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. The race was long over, but Ameneshoa stayed to honor the fallen and their families. It was important to him because his father served in the Ethiopian army.
“I didn’t have my dad close to me when I grew up because he was fighting for the country,” Ameneshoa aforementioned. “I lost him all those years. So we honor not only the people who are fighting and serving the country, but besides the family members.”