Local races challenge runners

By Gary Droze


Runners new to Tallahassee quickly discover its treasures for training: the city itself is peppered with soft-surfaced tracks, and wooded trails await just minutes from the Capitol, in all four directions. But what good is training, without an opportunity to confirm one’s fitness in a local race? Happily, Tallahassee’s reputation as an ideal training site is matched by its status as Florida’s mother lode of racing opportunity. That status finds reinforcement this weekend, when a buffet of events to suit any racing taste will be served up.

Do you have national-class ambitions…or maybe just a hankering to watch elite competitors chase medals? Jog over to the Mike Long Track at Florida State University on Friday evening. The FSU Relays Track Meet will be in full swing, with championship sections of the steeplechase, 5000 meters, and 10000 meters, beginning at 6:30pm. The area’s top collegiate distance runners – FSU’s Vicky Gill and Joep Tigchelaar – should be among the leaders in the 5000 meter contest. As this is an open meet, you may even spy some local running club stars in the races. The meet is free to the public. For more schedule information, try www.fsutrack.com.

If watching Friday’s races inspires you to aim for a personal best, get up Saturday morning and follow your muse to the flattest, fastest road race venue in the City of Seven Hills: the Messer Field Course, at the intersection of Jackson Bluff Road and Dupree Street. The gun fires at 9:00am for the Tim Simpkins 5K, an event held to fund a memorial for the flamboyant former Gulf Winds Track member who succumbed to cancer last year. A 1-mile run at 8:45am precedes the 5K race, and the meager five dollar entry fee should appeal to skinflint runners like me who save their money for carbo-loading. Longtime area race director Joe Dexter (878-7880) heads up this event, so you can anticipate a first-class show.

Is 9:00am a bit early for you? Sleep an extra 30 minutes on Saturday, then make haste for the ZTA Race to Live 5K, scheduled to start at the corner of College and Macomb Streets at 9:30am. A one-miler for less competitive entrants goes off at 9:00am. Former Leon High School distance standout Amy Coburn (425-8397) directs this race, which raised 3,000 dollars last year for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Coburn hopes to top 5,000 dollars this year for the foundation; participants can aid a worthy cause and get a workout in one fell swoop (or stagger, if you don’t pace yourself!).