Today is so fresh and lovely, with its unexpected sunshine and mildness. I started my day working in my study with the window open so I could hear the song of a solitary but persistant bird.
I chose to walk to my gym taking a roundabout route along the trail beside Burrard Inlet. I could look at the completely still glassy water, the soaring gulls and predator birds, and the blossoms and tiny leaves unfurling everywhere.
The atmosphere of spring reminded me of why I loved road races, especially spring road races. In particular, my mind went back to the several years when I raced three weekends in a row at this time of year, competing in the Vancouver Sun Run 10K, the Times-Colonist 10K in Victoria, and finally the huge Lilac Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Washington. I was already a masters runner when I did this “triple”—I never ran Bloomsday when I was in my prime, because I lived in Toronto then, and it was too difficult to fit the race into my competitive schedule. My only memorable performance in the Sun Run as a younger runner was in 1992, when I won the race in a respectable time of 32:44. My son Abebe had just turned a year old.
But now, I want to reach back in my memory to the years from 1999 to 2008, when I was racing well as a masters runner. What did these spring road races feel like? What was it that I loved about these huge, celebratory crowd-running events? What makes these premier road races so extraordinary?
All three of them share characteristics that contribute to their excitement and popularity:
- They are mass participation races (Sun Run approx. 50,000, Times-Colonist approx. 10,000, Bloomsday approx. 60,000). All those hot bodies generate a huge amount of energy.
- All three races follow exceptionally scenic courses in cities that offer both locals and tourists lots of opportunities for fun and sight-seeing.
- Their race directors offer elite athletes transportation, hotel rooms, and special welcoming events and hospitality.
- The best runners race for CASH.
- The media in all three cities promote the races with enthusiasm and professionalism.
- Most of all, these three races feel like joyous celebrations of spring!
Road races are usually morning races. That is one of the reasons I love them. I’m a morning person. For me there is no better time to be alive and active, especially on spring and summer mornings when the light starts coming very early.
I’d like to take you back to a morning in Spokane, Washington. It could have been 2000, or 2001, or 2005. It’s the most exciting day of the year in that city—Bloomsday race day. I’m not going to recount the story of a particular race; I’m going to give a sensation-by-sensation summary of the feelings that were part of every great spring road race I ever ran.
To be continued soon…
Good luck to all my readers who are racing in The Vancouver Sun Run this weekend!
Olympic Training Log
April 9, 1988
AM: Jogged to track with Paul, did 7 laps more warmup at good pace. Still feeling sick and sluggish. Just did last 1½ laps with him, at about 1:48—that was hard enough, legs still like Jello and sore in upper quads. After did 4 x 100m strides. About 5 miles.
April 10, 1988
AM: Did 91-min run, first half with Paul. Did a couple fast miles at the start, I hit rigor mortis at 70 min, struggled home. Feeling dizzy still but much stronger. About 13½ miles. Very exhausted rest of day.
April 11, 1988
AM: Swim 50 lengths 37:45. Surprised because I felt slow—but no kids.
AM-2: Weights—“pull-strength.” Terribly weak—I’ve lost a lot. 60 min. Added hamstring curl & leg extension, situps, squats, snatch.
April 12, 1988
AM: Ran 10 miles at Von Karman with Paul. Legs still very tired—didn’t feel peppy—pleased to run at even pace and do 64:29. Achilles a bit sore at start, top of ankle very sore after.
PM: Jogged to track, did 1 mile more warmup and 3 strides. 7 x 1 lap with 1 min rest. Times 68, 66, 66, 65, 66, 66, 66. Still very tired. Heel very sore in warmup, wore ankle brace. Ran home. 4½ miles.
April 13, 1988
AM: Swim 50 lengths 38:20—pool quite crowded.
PM: Weights—“push-strength” plus back leg push on Universal, side leg-raises, hyperextensions. Forgot dips. Weak but worked really hard 68 min. Heel very sore today.
April 14, 1988
AM: Rode bike to Von Karman. Did 41-min run in forest at moderate pace—still feeling tired and sluggish. Did intervals along path—times 4:16 (up), 3:46 (down), 4:12, 3:46, 4:12. Felt quite good. Jogged back to Institute. 11½ miles. Hardly noticed heel, wore ankle brace.
PM: Ran 41 min starting from house—6 miles. Pretty good pace, I was tired but not too bad. Heel very sore and didn’t even warm up—pain seems to be moving higher into Achilles.
April 15, 1988
AM: Swim 50 lengths 38:35. Arms very tired.
AM-2: Weights—“pull-endurance” plus several leg exercises with bar and situps. Worked hard 65 min. Heel very sore today.
This week: 50 miles running, 3 swims, 3 weight workouts, 2 Von Karman bike rides.