Mike Sandrock: Pearl Street Mile, Boulder’s hometown race, turns 20

Mike Sandrock

The Pearl Street Mile still gnaws at Stephen Pifer, one of the best milers to come out of the University of Colorado and perhaps the most versatile elite runner in Boulder.

With personal bests ranging from 1 minute, 48.1 seconds over 800 meters to 3:58.1 for the mile all the way to a 2:18 marathon, Pifer had many wins and highlights in a running career that began as a prep star in Illinois, through an All American career at CU, to racing in the Olympic trials, Europe and around the country.

Now, as Pifer winds down from elite racing and moves his family to Atlanta to begin a new job with Mizuno, he took some time at a recent going-away party to reflect on the races he won -— and did not win.

If you go

What: 20th annual Pearl Street Mile

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Downtown Boulder

Cost: $20

More info: flatironrunningevents.com or 303-517-7046

High on the list is the Pearl Street Mile. The 20th edition of this iconic downtown race is Wednesday evening.

“Hey, Pife, didn’t you always take second at Pearl Street?” kidded former teammate and Olympic steeplechaser Billy Nelson, now the CU recruiting coordinator, as the stories flowed as smoothly as the beer.

“What is this, a roast?” a smiling Pifer replied.

He went on to tell how a couple years ago, he was racing the European track circuit, dueling four-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah and some of the other best runners in the world over 3000 meters at London’s Crystal Palace. “Then I come back to my small hometown race and could not get a win.”

Such is the Pearl Street Mile, as much a part of Boulder running as old-time races Bolder Boulder, the Sunrise Stampede and the Eldorado Springs Run for the Cure.

It is a race that brings together all the disparate parts of the local running community, from children walking the 800 meter kids’ race, to parents, grandparents, friends and family, Olympians and newcomers, all converging on the downtown pedestrian mall for an evening of fun, reconnecting and, up front, some fierce competition.

“The small-town races, especially in Boulder, are special because you get to see all your friends or friends you haven’t seen in awhile,” explained race director Henry…

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