"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's your favorite race... and why?

I've done a lot of complaining about races on this blog, but I think I've finally found the source of my frustration. Races change and, while the race director (and maybe even every other runner) thinks they're improving things, I see what's getting lost. Race directors need to look at their races and see what they offer that no one else can and then keep those things.

This is not a new phenomenon. The " G.B.S. St. Patrick's Day 5 Mile" was always the first race of the year here, run down Summit Avenue (which at that time had no other races!) It was where I set two personal records, beating world record-holders and Olympians. It grew to about 6000 runners. It also changed to 8K, changed course to an out-and-back rather than point-to-point, changed race directors (Gary Bjorklund sold his store, which had a few names and owners over the years), changed date to a week later in hopes of better weather, changed name to The Human Race and now Irish Run and changed entry fees, awards, etc.and is now down to 600 runners and is only one of at least five races in St. Paul in March.

It was a favorite of mine and now is not. Every step along the way they thought they were improving the race, but they lost the huge crowds and they also lost those like me who raced before the large crowds came. They lost everything that made the race special - not always their fault, by the way; the St. Paul Pioneer Press used to print the name and time of every finisher, but stopped devoting several pages of print to it by 1990.

Recently, the Rice Street Mile in St. Paul became the Midsummer Mile and moved from Rice Street to the State Fairgrounds. It was an unique race, held in conjunction with a neighborhood festival, with a downhill finish leading to fast times and strategic racing. The race director felt the changes improve it, but it's lost everything that made it unique.

What I've found is that my favorite races reflect the personalities of the race directors. While I think the spring and fall Superior Trail Races are still fine events, I preferred the spring races when Gretchen and Mike Perbix directed them and the fall ones when Larry Pederson directed them; it's just a matter of the low-key laid back approach (especially of Larry) that I liked - John Storkamp can be a bit intense.

Larry still directs a race, the In Yan Teopa 10 Mile, which is tomorrow. Wish I could be there.
From the DNR website for Frontenac. The course does have a flat section or two!

So what's your favorite race and what makes it special?


Londell said...

I know what you mean. Bigger is not better. I also had so many races over the years that grew beyond enjoyment. Like Grandma's, I have 29 consecutive years running anywhere from 3:15 to 6:45 and when the added the half marathon, it lost all the flair. Superior is getting big and that is success, but I miss the smaller days. I once liked the winter carnival half in St Paul, lost the allure a decade back.

So right now I have no favorite.

Anonymous said...

I think the shirts and logos for superior sawtooth are terrible. The first time I saw one I thought it was cool. Once I saw a second one, I thought it was trying too hard to be badass. Bangin in the Brush has always had the coolest shirts, except this year. Frost Giant 10k in Estes Park CO is one of my favorite t shirts, too. Maybe I just like good race shirts, but my favorite races happe to be Bangin in the Brush and Estes Park Frost GIant.

Anonymous said...

I want to make another comment, I can't stand when a race offers multiple distances. Every race you see offers a full, a half, a 10k, a 5k, a rollerblade race, a dog race, a unicycle race, a costume race, a relay race and a 13 person caterpillar race. The main reason is that people should toughen up and just run the long event if they want to be included. Secondly, there is nothing worse than sitting thru these award ceremonies just to get your silly ribbon or mug. you have to wait for all those different race distances and age groups. And thirdly, most of these events only attract about 20 people per distance, so you have a small town event that is watered down, and you get to only race against 15 or 16 people.

Scott said...

For me, it's still the Fall Superior Trail races. I know what you mean about the change, and maybe after a few more years I will get there. But for now, I have fantastic memories of those races since I found them in 2008. I still enjoy the people I get to see up there, I have close friends that enthusiastically sign up with me for a weekend away together, and I love that trail. It was packed on the early section of the 100 this year - *packed*. So it's indeed changing. But I'm still happy there.

Jean said...

It is funny you mention the St. Patrick's Day 5 Mile. When I started running that in 2005 when it was the Human Race, I think there were close to 1200 runners. Last year (as you noted) it was at least half that.

After running Surf the Murph last year, that might be my favorite. Just a low key trail race, no frills, no expo, still very of intimate - kind of the way many trail races used to be. The Tofte Trek 10K is still very much like that, too.

SteveQ said...

I have a soft spot for the Runnin' in the Ruff 10K in Milaca, myself. Just a fun race with a small town feel that never seems to change.

Anonymous said...

With In Yan Teopa and Runnin' in the Ruff, you hit two of my favorites. It's probably not a coincidence that both cost $17 when I last ran them. Some year I want to see how far $100 could go. With a little luck I could run a trail race every month from April to November. By the way, the Arctic Commando 5K is still only $15.

John K.

SteveQ said...

Langford Park 4th of July 4 Mile is still 50 cents!

Jordan Hanlon said...

I'd have to say Grandma's marathon. It was my first marathon, it is well organized and normally their is a large group of people that I know running. I will have to agree that even the trail ultras (100 milers) are growing so fast that they are starting to follow the trend of the road marathon. Even just a few years ago running the Zumbro 100 in 2011 I remember there were 26 starters and there were maybe 5 or 6 campsites set up and we all gathered around the fire the day before and talked about the race. Now even that race is a lot bigger, which is good and bad. I guess some of these races will lose their intimate appeals as they grow and we will have to just live with it.