Don't Miss the Roller Coaster RideDavid Yon, March 10, 2014
Flat, fast race courses have their place. We all love them, especially when we are chasing personal bests or fast times. The strategy can be pretty simple – write down the pace you need or want to run, decide how much to hold back (if any) early and then go for it.
But the races and the courses we remember the most vividly and talk about over the years are the ones with “character.” “Character” in race course vernacular is a sexy filter for the word “hilly.” It is a twist of language intended to suggest there is something to be desired, rather than detested. With full knowledge, we somehow fall for this trap and find ourselves drawn to these challenging events.
One need look no further than March 29, 2014, to know what I mean. The Springtime Tallahassee 10K Race has character. Runners will find themselves going down, then up and sometimes rolling up and down. For the entire course, there is maybe a half mile of flat running along Franklin Boulevard. So we can drop the pretense; this race is just plain hilly and it will test you. It is not a “PR” course. And yet, in many ways this is Tallahassee’s marquee race. Over all years combined it has produced more finishers than any other Tallahassee race, except perhaps Turkey Trot. It starts in the center of town and runs through a beautiful neighborhood. It represents spring in Tallahassee – on a really good year, azaleas and dogwoods greet the runners who take on the challenge, the weather is crisp and blue skies advertise for the chamber of commerce. It is one of those select few races many of us try to run every year regardless of how healthy we feel; out of town travel is discouraged if not forbidden in our house on this weekend every year. I ran my first Springtime 10K in 1984 and I don’t think I have missed one since.
The race began in 1976 as something totally different – a 4 mile race on the FSU campus. The next year however the course moved to a start on Monroe Street where it has been ever since. There have been some course changes, sometimes required by construction and sometimes to eliminate issues around the finish line. But the race has kept its basic flow ever since – a fast start, a lot of challenging hills and terrain in the middle, so nice downhill and a challenging finish. Well, maybe the finish has softened over the years. The original course brought the runners “up” Call Street from Franklin Boulevard to Monroe Street and then continued “up” Monroe Street for a little more torture. While that finish was full of character, racing up it at the end of a 10K on a warm, muggy day taught runners more about how to survive than how to finish a race. Fortunately, someone decided it was a bad idea to keep Monroe Street closed that long.
For my first 10 years or so of running the race it finished on Calhoun Street. Runners blasted down the hill on Lafayette toward the finish making up time for the tough hills in miles 2-5 and taking advantage of the downhill returns in miles 5 and 6. In the back of your mind though, you knew that you would soon reach Meridian which would dead end into Gaines Street. The course went left on Gaines and up the hill. About a quarter of a block up, the 6 mile sign was parked, telling you that only .2 of a mile remained. But we all knew those last .2 would keep rising until the finish line on S. Calhoun appeared. Many a place was decided on this short stretched and many a dinner lost. And many a yarn spun afterwards.
This year Sean and Mandy Hudson will debut as race directors. They have been working hard to keep Springtime as one of Tallahassee’s showcase events and I am looking forward to 2014 being special. Several years ago the race finished moved to Suwannee St. removing the uphill finish, but I can assure you there is plenty of “character” remaining in this event. But don’t let it scare you away, it is what makes this event special and keeps us all coming back. Did I tell you about the time…?