In the Red Hills


By David Yon


Titanium training wheels, a child who did the entire race with his swimming goggles on, another pushing her bike up the hill and whispering to a bystander – “I am tired” and lots of adorable smiles and grimaces from ages 6-15 captured Maclay Gardens Sunday morning. Patrick Dix, 14 years old, was back to successfully defend his title blistering the course (125 yard swim, 2.4 mile bike ride and a 1 mile run) in a time of 16:36. Not far back was 13 year old Jesse Fields, the top female finisher in 16:59. Four of the top five places went to female participants. Perhaps the most spectacular performance was nine year old Cecelia Williams who finished fourth over all in a time of 17:24. I wonder who her parents are.

A little patience and a lot of persistence by Bonnie and Felton Wright has seen this event slowly grow until this year when it exploded as more than 130 kids showed up on a beautiful morning with at least 73 of them 10 years old or younger. Of course you have not experience pressure as a race director (or volunteer) until you watch a group of eight and under kids go off a dock and into the dark water of Lake Hall. But then that brings us to the most poignant moment of the morning, when two young girls jump in during the last wave and started splashing furiously without doing much moving forward. Within seconds, Jeff Nielsen and Mike Weyant were at their sides providing support, encouraging them to keep going and make the distance. You could hear them saying just hang on for a bit, then swim a bit. Soon they had them headed for the shallow ground and the finish. Felton and Bonnie had quite the swim team patrolling the waters to make sure all were safe, but Jeff and Mike certainly led the group to sainthood.

The variety that GWTC offers never stops amazing me and Red Hills just brings it home once again. The hours and hours that go into events from the Ultra to the hamstring 100 are worthy of great praise. You are really missing out on something special if you don’t find at least two or three events to which to donate volunteer time. Another great example is the summer track series starting the beginning of next month.

Of course the marathon captures everyone’s imagination and this past weekend our 50 state stars, Cynthia and Ron Christian and Cathy McCarty were recognized at Terry Ryan’s house. If you haven’t, check out the magnificent journey of these three warriors who ran a marathon in all 50 states and the District of Columbia you should. Elsewhere on the web page is an interview with them and they have terrific scrap books that capture the memories. Big thanks to Terry for offering up his home.

And speaking of the Wrights, their next great race directing adventure is the Breakfast on the Track in mid August. I know as a distance running club we tend to pay more attention to the marathon and beyond. No doubt performances at Boston, Badwater and elsewhere around the country earn every word of praise they get. But I still think there is a magic in the mile that surpasses all of these. It is only four trips around the track (plus a few feet), but it requires superior combinations of distance, strength and endurance. And for me at least, it requires great courage to push through barriers of mental and physical resistance that, if crossed in longer runs, spells foolhardiness. Of course the four minute barrier is the magic mark for some much of the spectating public, but I fixated on my own goal of the breaking the 5:00 barrier the last two years. Once I got close and the second time, well it was a disaster. It is a very different training regime.

And speaking of the mile, I thought Alan Webb showed great class in welcoming new U.S. citizens Bernard Legat. Legat, the Kenyan who recently became a US citizen will in all likelihood rewrite the American record book. (In fact he may already have depending on exactly when he began running as an American. He actually received his citizenship before winning the silver metal in last year’s Olympics.) Webb rather than being threatened by the great runner welcomed him by saying: “Bernard’s success will add a great deal to the uprising of young U.S. middle distance runners. He will be a great leader for myself and others to show how fast it is possible to run.” Webb’s PR’s in the mile and 1500 are 3:50.83 and 3:32.73. Legat has run 3:26.34, the second fastest time ever for 1500 meters. He has also run 3:47.28 for the mile, although I am not sure that is his best.

Spring is still hanging around, but it can’t be long before the summer heat takes commands. Here’s to staying cool as long as possible.