Goddamned Denver Marathon organizers design the greatest mousetrap in goddamned traffic history

You know how every once in awhile somebody will plow a car into a crowd of people? I think I now understand why.

Every Sunday morning we go to brunch in Denver. There are lots of great spots and we sort of rotate between them. Today we were going to see if we could get into the new Snooze location at Colorado & 7th. We’ve tried a couple of times before, but with no luck. See, the way Sunday brunch works most places in Denver is that things don’t start to pack up until 9:30 or 10:00. If you’re there before then the wait won’t be too bad.

Except for Snooze. We keep trying earlier and earlier and the lines keep getting longer and longer. Damned early-rising bastards. So today we got up earlier and arrived by 8:45…to find a 45-minute line ahead of us.

Since we were hungry we agreed that we’d head over to Racine’s and next week we’d get to Snooze by around 6:00 pm Saturday night so we could camp out and maybe beat the rush.

So, as our saga begins, it’s 8:45, I’m hungry and already a tad annoyed.

We hop in the car and head west down 8th toward the Governor’s Park neighborhood, where Racine’s is located. As we pass Cheeseman Park (if you don’t know Denver, hold on – a map is on the way) we notice lots of people in running attire with official numbers. Angela says “looks like a race – I wonder if today is the marathon?”

Can’t be, I say. A couple of the people I see couldn’t drive 26 miles without their hearts exploding. Running it would be out of the question. But there are lots and lots of people, and as we cruise by we see that there is, in fact, some kind of very organized race event under way. Hmmm.

Shortly thereafter traffic begins stacking up. And Angela remembers that she did see something on the news, after all – this is the day of the Denver Marathon, and while we haven’t seen the race map, it looks like we’ve wandered into the thick of things. Wonderful.

At Josephine we’re forced to detour, and I’m thinking no sweat, I’ll just buzz through the neighborhood, get around the traffic, and we’ll be at Racine’s in a couple of minutes.

Woops. I try to head west on 9th but it seems they’ve turned the runners south, so I’m dead-ended. Dammit. All right, fine, I’ll hang a left and work my way down to 7th. Nuh-uh. Streets are closed to the south – can’t get across 8th, and from the intersection we can see that they have the runners heading back east along 7th. What the fuck?

It’s right about now that I’m starting to think about the time my trash can disappeared. There are malevolent and contrary forces in the universe, and it sucks when it’s your turn to entertain them.

Right about now Angela checks her watch and says “you know, by the time we get back to Snooze it will be about 45 minutes since we put our names on the list.” Which is funny, of course. No big deal, she says – it’s a beautiful day, we love driving around Denver and we love this neighborhood. Fine. So we loop around to head back east, the way we came from.

Son. Of. A. Bitch! We can’t go east on 8th, obviously, because it’s one-way to the west, and 9th dead-ends at the park. I’m not going to panic just yet, but I’m getting an uneasy feeling about this whole scene.

Well, hell – I guess we can work our way back to the north, catch 14th east and go the long way around.

But…PIGFUCKERS!! They’re running them down 13th! (I do some calculations in my head, and of course, there’s no way they can get from Cheeseman, heading west, to running south on Logan without closing us off to the north somewhere. I should have realized this by now.)

How in the hell did they do this? You can’t go west, you can’t go east, you can’t go south and you can’t go north, either! I mean, there are only four options, people, and since we somehow or another got into the middle of the damned course, there has to be a way out.

By now I’m beginning to get a little irritated. I roll up to the blocked intersection at 13th, where a cop is manning the barricades. He is sympathetic. Sympathetic, but not helpful. He allows as to how I could maybe swing back around thataway and get outside of the course. Somehow. I remind him (he’s working the damned race – shouldn’t he know this already?) that we’ve tried that already. His next best idea is that we can wait a half-hour or however long until all the runners get past.

As I back slowly away, looking for a place to turn around, I eye the officer and the slow stream of runners. I think about those stories where people plow into crowds. I gun my engine. Few things are less intimidating than gunning a Honda Civic, though. I sigh, soaking in my helplessness.

So, how in the hell did I find myself in the midst of the most effective mousetrap in the entire goddamned history or traffic engineering? The course map (this is the part that’s relevant to our current discussion) illustrates:


Notice the blue arrow bottom right. That’s 8th, the one-way path into the trap. The red X at Race St.? That’s more or less the point of no return. The red dashes are street closings. The purple is the race course. Now imagine that you’re in a car proceeding westbound along 8th and that you pass Race without any warning as to what lies ahead. How do you get out?

That’s right, bitches – YOU DON’T!!!

Let me state here that I have never worked on the logistics for a marathon. I’ve never mapped out a marathon course. I’m sure this is a complex process and I acknowledge, without reservation, that there are probably very few people alive who know less about this subject than I do.

That said, what the hell were these fucking rocket surgeons thinking?! A semi-housebroken monkey could look at this map and realize that, hey, maybe we didn’t think this through all the way. Never mind the fact that lots of people live in the area and may need to, you know, go somewhere. But is it a great idea to funnel lots of traffic into an area where the only means of escape is through a goddamned race course?! If I were designing the course, this is precisely what I’d do if I hated runners, drivers, the residents of Cheeseman Park and anybody else dumbass enough to assume that you can get there from here. The only thing missing was Ashton Kutcher and a camera crew.

The asshats could at least have put a sign along 8th letting us know that we were driving into the sumbitching Bermuda Triangle! (Note: If there was, in fact, such a sign, I apologize for the previous insult. Let me instead offer this: The asshats could at least have not hidden the sign letting us know that we were driving into the sumbitching Bermuda Triangle behind a goddamned tree!

[deep breath]

We eventually gave up, found a parking place and walked the several blocks to Racine’s, where we had a lovely brunch. (I had the breakfast burrito, which I heartily recommend to anyone fortunate enough to make it to the restaurant.) Along the way, we learned that there was, in fact, a way out. If you continued down 8th and sat in the line long enough (I’m guessing 45 minutes, maybe?) they were letting a car or two through at Logan whenever there was a break in the line of runners. In the defense of the race planners, we saw at least two cars escape the trap.

If whoever planned this event ever decides to get out of the marathon logistics business, I hope they go to work designing prisons. Or roach motels. As it stands right now, their gift is being wasted.

5 replies »

  1. Sounds like you need fart can mufflers on that civic.

    I feel your pain, Sam. I once lived inside the Ann Arbor Art Fair area. (The A2 Art Fair is perhaps the largest congregation of upper-middle class, liberal smugness in this solar system.) If i was lucky enough, no artist had set their stuff across my driveway. After that i had to nose my way out into a throng of people (in a Honda Civic) and travel two blocks through the fair in my car. Oh the dirty looks i got for trying to get to work, the purposefully refusing to get out of my way, and the anger that my car didn’t come with the cow-catcher attachment.

    That’s why my current vehicle sports big hooks under the front bumper, sits more than a foot off the ground and has skid plates…i don’t want to have to be picking body parts out of the engine compartment.

  2. “The A2 Art Fair is perhaps the largest congregation of upper-middle class, liberal smugness in this solar system.”

    I wonder how it would compare to the Boulder Creek Festival. And I say this as someone who enjoys the BCF in small doses once every few years.

  3. Sam, did generating that map take longer or shorter than the actually traffic snare you were trapped in?