By: George Rehmet
“Oh the places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
As a RRCA Region Director, I view that one of my volunteer duties is to support the running clubs and events in my region that covers the western part of the United States from the Rockies westward, including Hawaii and Alaska. During 2016 I had the pleasure and honor to meet runners and to experience their communities and races in my region. I highlight five of the races that I visited in my capacity as Western Region Director (I included the 2017 race dates, championship status, and race websites.)
RRCA Western Regional Championship
March 5, 2017
Napa Valley Marathon always holds a special place for me as it is the only race where I have run sub 3 hours in 1999 and completed my 100th marathon in 2014. Located less than 90 minutes north of San Francisco, the Napa Valley is a feast for eyes with its idyllic vineyards and a feast for the taste buds with top rated restaurants and the variety of wines that the region offers. Other things to do are to visit the spas with their natural geothermal waters, hike the nearby Petrified Forest, ride and dine on Wine Train, or take a balloon ride through the valley. Whenever I come to this place, it feels like a homecoming especially with the kindness and class that race directors Rich Benyo and Dave Hill display to its participants.
Looking for a personal best or Boston Marathon qualifying time, this marathon has a fast course and 2800 cap on runners that allows the runner to have space to run on the Silverado Trail (which is really a road) course. Or if one is more for running a leisurely pace, the beauty and tranquility of the valley will create a pleasurable experience. After the race, check out the overall male and female winners get cases of wine in their weight. Running this race will give one clarity as to why Napa Valley was awarded RRCA Road Race of the Year and been selected as a RRCA National Championship frequently.
RRCA State Championship
May 7, 2017
Located in eastern Washington state, Spokane may be a small city but with enormous charm. I enjoy shopping at the independent shops along with sampling wines in an area that happens to be only second to wine production (as compared to California) in the country. Another favorite activity is dining, walking, or taking the sky tram around Spokane Falls.
If you need a running route, then check out the Bloomsday Road Runners Club (www.brrc.net). Although this club does not put on the Lilac Bloomsday Run, they host several races that have been RRCA championships such as the Spokane Marathon/Half Marathon and the Sundae Sunday 10 Miler which serves Ben & Jerry Ice Cream at the finish.
Held on the first Sunday of every May for 40 years now, the Bloomsday Run has had over 40,000 participants every year since 1986. Past RRCA President and 1976 Olympian Don Kardong, founded the Bloomsday race and is the race director. The course is hilly with its infamous ½ mile Doomsday Hill near the end. But the crowds and bands along the course help to motivate all the runners from wheelchair athletes to elite runners to walkers. The community support is so great that the event is televised locally as well. All finishers get a shirt. To run this bucket list race will only set you back $18 – yes, $18.
RRCA Western Regional Championship
May 28, 2017
Ah, Hawaii – waterfalls, tropical foliage, warm waters, pleasant weather, and beaches of all colors of sands. Hawaii may be expensive but the amount of activities or the amount of time to just unwind is well worth a trip to our nation’s 50th state. While there, I did enjoy snorkeling, swimming, and the luaus. The poke (fish salad) and shaved ice are culinary must tries. One can contact RRCA Outstanding State Representative of the Year Ron Alford or the Mid-Pacific Road Runners Club (www.mprrc.com) for local running info (and even great local places to eat at).
Held on the Sunday during Memorial Day weekend for the last 10 years, the Hibiscus Half Marathon (along with a 5 mile and 15 km races) incorporates large parts of the Honolulu Marathon route. The race starts at 5:30AM to avoid the heat and humidity. Starting and finishing at Kapiolani Park on the south end of Wakiki, the race takes runners past Diamond Head Crater and goes close along the ocean. Race director Jen McVeay wants this race to be fun from providing a beach party theme in the finish area to posting signs saying “NO mean people.” With most people finishing the race by 9AM, one will have enough time to grab breakfast or take a dip at the nearby beaches.
RRCA Western Regional Championship
June 17, 2017
If there is a model for community support for a race, the Heart and Sole is the one to check out. This race takes place on the Saturday before Father’s Day and the distances of 10K, 5K, and 2 mile are accessible for all folks from the fastest runners to the most leisurely walkers. The mayor of Billings can be seen helping at the start. Within a couple of blocks past the start, participants past under one of the biggest American flags one will see being held up by a couple of laddered fire engines. Cheerleaders from the local schools are there to cheer participants along the course. Folks finish at Dehler Park where there is the Montana Active Life Festival with the goal of promoting healthy lifestyles. In the evening, one can watch the race on the local television station. Race Director Karen Gall has created not just a race but an event in which the sport of running is the focus for that day in Billings.
Billings may appear hard to reach but it is worth the visit as a jumping point to such great natural scenery such as the Beartooth Highway which leads to Yellowstone National Park. Or go back in the past with a visit to Little Big Horn or sites that Lewis and Clarke came across. If one needs local info, there is RRCA State Representative (also an Outstanding State Rep.) John Devitt and the Yellowstone Rimrunners (www.rimrunners.org) to help you out.
RRCA Western Regional & State Championships
(and 2016 Road Race of the Year)
August 20, 2017
Previously called Big Wild Life Runs, the new title “Anchorage RunFest” is a better descriptor of this event which not only has a half marathon, 5K, a kids 2K, one mile, and an ultra of 49K distance for the 49th state but a running themed movie night, a health and safety festival along with the finish line festival, and guest running celebrities such as Jeff Galloway and Runner’s World Bart Yasso. This huge event is put on by volunteers from the Anchorage Running Club (www.anchoragerunningclub.org) who is led by race director (and newly appointed Alaska RRCA State Representative) Sharron Fisherman.
Cool temperatures and the slightly rolling course along the Tony Knowles Coastal and Chester Creek Trails make this race a nice Boston Marathon qualifier. Also the race is scenic with great views of the Aleutian Range, the Alaska Range, and the Chugach Mountains. It was pleasure to have Alaska Governor Bill Walker to help start all the Sunday races.
Far away and, maybe considered out worldly, Anchorage and the surrounding areas is an adventurer’s paradise. After the marathon, I had a great time hiking the Chugach mountains, flying in a seaplane to view inaccessible (by ground) glaciers, and kayaking and exploring Spencer Glacier. Just be prepared for wet weather and for bears.
With the above races, I experienced passionate and dedicated people that labor on their races for a force of good for their communities. These races are a model for what a RRCA championship should be. Moreover, before or after the race, explore the surrounding areas and engage with the community’s runners. Despite many differences that may set us apart (especially in such a divisive political year), my experiences have certainly reaffirmed my belief that our love of our sport creates a stronger and much more positive bond amongst us runners.
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