The Colfax Marathon has become Denver’s corporate "it" charity event of the year.
In the past seven years, the number of corporate relay teams that suited up for the annual marathon has gone from 45 to 531. Those racers, combined with government division runners, have raised an estimated $2.5 million in pledges in the past five years for metro Denver charities and schools.
This year’s marathon weekend is May 19-20.
Colfax Marathon organizers and sponsors have turned the race weekend into a popular way for companies to set fitness goals for their employees, as well as to get competitive and attempt to win prize money for one of more than 200 charities and have some fun.
“It’s gratifying to see it grow that much,” said Jandel Allen-Davis, Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s vice president of government, external relations and research.
It was her idea years ago to assemble corporate teams for the marathon. She wanted to help companies create an esprit de corps around health and wellness.
Kaiser Permanente is title sponsor of the nonprofit marathon. The health organization had nearly 100 really teams in the 2017 marathon.
“I thought it would be a fun thing to challenge corporations, of getting business involved to reinforce their culture of health,” Allen-Davis said.
Employees from Continental Sausage, Inc., compete in the 2017 Colfax Marathon. Each year, they raise $10,000 to $15,000 for Denver Kids, Inc.
As more corporate teams signed up, marathon officials developed prize money to raise the competitive bar. Now, the race has a $100,000 purse. But unlike other marathons, the money isn’t for the athletes.
Winners from each of 13 industry categories get a chunk of that change – anywhere from $2,500 to $750 depending on where they place — and then they write checks to their favorite charities. Last year, there were 218 charity partners associated with the marathon.
Some corporate relay teams are just happy to cross the finish line. But others have made it a competition. There’s talk around the track that some teams hold time trials within their companies to get the A team together.
“They love bragging rights and they really love giving money to charity,” said Andrea Dowdy, the Colfax Marathon’s CEO.
Employees at Denver-based Continental Sausage Inc., makers of CharcūtNuvo brand sausage, have been competing in the Colfax Marathon corporate relay for five years. And its CEO, Eric Gutknecht, said he’s passionate about Denver Kids Inc., a nonprofit organization that works with Denver Public Schools to help at-risk students graduate.
Last year, Gutknecht’s company had 13 teams – 65 runners — competing in the relay race, each with five team members. Thirty-five of those runners were employees and the rest were vendors and friends of the company.
“We run the relay and raise money for Denver Kids,” Gurknecht said. “We usually raise anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 a year, … which equates to approximately funding 10 kids in the programs.”
Gurknecht said the event has helped the company focus on wellness, health and community initiatives.
“For many of our blue-collar production staff, they have never participated in an organized event, but now they look forward to the marathon year after year,” he said.
The attitude seems to be catching. The corporate division of the marathon is the fastest growing division in the race. Last year it grew by 10 percent.
And in many cases, the human resources department is picking up the tab for their company employees’ entry fees.
“It’s great to see and companies are running year after year,” Dowdy said.