Might just be a good day for a race

David Yon, March 19, 2019

Fingers crossed, I look as far as I can into the weather future for a glimpse of what the weather will be like on March 30, the day for the 2019 Springtime Tallahassee Races. My wish is for early morning temperatures in the upper 40’s, maybe crawling into the low 50’s by 8:00 a.m. with skies that are that brilliant blue color that marks a glorious Tallahassee spring day.

A day fit for the Springtime 10K, 5K and One Mile races. Rachel and Zack Sharlepp are excellent race directors, especially when being helped by young sons, Rhys and Flynn (David). As you can see, Rhys likes to turn things upside down.

While starting times are a bit off center – 7:45 a.m. start for the One Mile Run and an 8:10 a.m. start for the 5K and 10K runs – it accommodates those who want to run and participate in the city’s biggest festival and makes it hard to forget them. The running crowd likely to gather on Monroe Street in front of the Leon County Court House, especially when conditions are great, is usually the second biggest race in the Tallahassee area each year.

Last year, despite the threat of bad weather, more than 1400 participants finished one of the three races, with the 10K still being the largest, but the 5K followed not too far behind.

The Springtime Races have a grand tradition and are always at the core of the Tallahassee running community. There have been a number of different Springtime 10K courses, but other than the first one in 1976 which was more of a “pre” Springtime Race run on the FSU campus than what we think of as “Springtime” today, all of the races have started on Monroe near the court house. Construction forced the race to go south on Monroe Street for one or two years, but otherwise runners have started the race by heading north to Call Street and then downhill to Franklin Boulevard before climbing up again to neighborhood of Myers Park. For the first couple years the race only included a 10K and it finished near the start forcing runners to climb one of the steepest hills around, climbing all the way back up Call Street to Monroe Street and then turning left and climbing to the finish.

In 1983, the year before I ran my first Springtime 10K, the Call Street to Monroe Street finish was changed to accommodate the Springtime Festival committee. The race organizers realized the climb up Call Street was not much fun and agreed to move the finish off Monroe Street to avoid the parade. Instead, the race finish was moved to Calhoun Street and the dreadfully difficult finish up Call Street was eliminated. There was still an uphill finish starting from the point where runners turned on to Gaines Street to the finish, probably .3 of a mile. The Calhoun finish did not have enough room for the post-race party and so the finish was moved to Suwanee Street.
All of the courses shared a common characteristic – a fast downhill start, an uphill climb, followed by a section of rolling hills and a fast mile near the end. They differed in terms of how hard the finish was, but all required carefully thinking and pacing to run the best race possible. No doubt the finish up Call Street was the toughest, followed by the finish on Calhoun Street.

The fastest course? Probably the current one. But while it is fast, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is easy. If you are prepared, the net downhill course can be very accommodating to fast times. To take advantage of it however, runners must push some on the downhill and not give it back on the uphill portions. The up and down can break a runner’s courage easily. Having said that, the 10K course is a “racer’s” course. That doesn’t mean hundreds of participants won’t be having the maximum amount of fun, but for those who do care, a carefully developed race plan will pay big dividends.

It has been awhile since I have felt ready to “race” Springtime. I am thinking I might edge a little closer to the front this year and try to take advantage of the early downhill. Hopefully not too much though. I want to stay strong through the middle of the race and then, do my best to finish strong. So, I know, I still have 10 days to get hurt, tired, sick, or for a heat wave to roll into town. But I have got my fingers crossed – it is about time some good weather and a “fast” time. Ack, I see the 10-day forecast now shows a low of 60 and a high of…maybe I will just wait for a better forecast.

Whatever your reason for running, I hope to see you on March 30.