June 2019 - RUNNING & WALKING
Tweaking Traditional Running Events
By Laura Clark
You know the drill. Just when you discover the perfect running shoes, the powers that be decide to switch things up. Believe me, I get it. As a fairly inflexible runner (physically as well as mentally), I have a tendency to develop brand loyalty, and take comfort in the fact that I know what to expect. Conversely, as a race director, I enjoy switching things up, sometimes to the consternation of faithful clientele. Occasionally, change is inevitable, as when bridges wash out, but often it is an attempt to respond to the suggestions of devoted customers.
July and August present four well-established events that have undergone multiple changes and are continuing to evolve in a vibrant community-centered manner. The first is New York’s largest 4th of July race, the 13th annual Firecracker4 led by Team Victor, Bravo, Charlie in a joint service military formation run. While online registration closes at midnight on July 1, there are generous opportunities for in-person registration and packet pickup on June 29 and 30 at Fleet Feet Malta, as well as July 2 at the Saratoga Springs City Center, with procrastination opportunities from 7-8:40am on the 4th. In an era when large races feature competitive online signups, this welcoming attitude eliminates considerable stress.
The prime question for most folks, however, is whether the seemingly permanent construction on the final hill leading to the finish will be completed by race time. As with most things in life, the answer is simply, “We don’t know.” However, race director Patrick Lynskey assures us that there is a Plan B. Personally, I would be sad to lose that final obstacle, a reminder of how hard long-ago patriots pushed to make America a reality. And as you wind your way on Broadway, Circular Street and the East Side, give a shout out to the Ainsley’s Angels pusher and rider teams, who exemplify the inclusiveness of our great country – where every person has the right to feel the wind in their face.
Afterwards, applaud the kids in the Half-Mile Sparkler Run, and the post-race party that’s now weather-insulated inside the City Center, where you can sample goodies from 9 Miles East and Esperanto, witness the doughboy eating (cheesy, chicken, doughy goodness, not World War I soldiers) contest, view the parade and then stick around for Saratoga’s All-American Celebration including music and fireworks. (firecracker4.com)
The other signature Saratoga event, the 23rd annual Silks & Satins 5K on Saturday, July 13, retains its reputation as a flat and fast tour alongside the classic houses near the thoroughbred race track. The tweak this year has to do with the date. Normally, the third weekend of July signals the end of parking opportunities as we know it. In other words, Track Season. This year, since track hurdled to the second weekend, traditional opening festivities have also been shoved forward. Those who customarily reserve the third Saturday for their annual PR attempt will now free up their second Saturday.
Silks was begun to support Special Olympics New York projects and funds generated continue to be distributed locally. If the altered date does not mesh with your current training plan, do consider volunteering instead. Simply visit silksandsatins5k.com and register for your assignment. Not only will you view racing from a different perspective, but you will rub shoulders with the dedicated Special Olympics volunteers, and learn how much these programs impact their lifestyle.
If you find yourself hosting visitors, consider running or walking with them for an off-the-beaten path tour of track housing neighborhoods. Plan on arriving early and pausing for a camera-worthy view of the thoroughbreds as they circle the Oklahoma Training Oval. Make use of your Saratoga Regional YMCA shower pass, and then its off to the four-legged races with your free Saratoga Race Track pass. Also, take advantage of your free National Museum of Racing pass. Last year, I toured the museum as part of a Saratoga outing with Emilia Suarez, one of my granddaughters, where we both delighted in the many interactive displays. Quite frankly, without the free passes, I probably wouldn’t have considered the adventure, but it made for a special day we will always remember. (silksandsatins5k.com)
HMRRC’s 25th annual Indian Ladder 5K and 15K Trail Run at Thatcher State Park on Sunday, July 21 goes retro this year, launching once more from the revamped Haile’s Cave Pavilion. While race director Mark Vermilyea undertook a valiant effort last year to partially reconstruct the 15K and create an entirely new 3.5-miler, he made the tough decision to return to the original venue where there is ample parking. Indian Ladder enthusiasts will be pleased to note that their pleas were answered and both options will once more enjoy the scenic tour along the Escarpment Trail, with the 15K crossing NY Route 157 for a loop, and then returning for another loop near Carrick Road.
If you choose the shorter option, be aware that Mark plans to alter the traditional 3.5 miler to a 5K by eliminating the small add-on section that always seemed to confuse runners. As in recent years, both races start simultaneously, so it is no longer possible to run both. But really, with all the hills, rocks and single-track, the courses are challenging enough without the double. Even in dry years, there are plenty of soggy sections, so with all our recent rain, muddy sneakers will be the norm.
One of my favorite portions occurs at the beginning on the grassy field, where runners scuff up wafts of fragrant thyme, flavoring the journey to come. My other favorite is at the end (duh!) where you can enjoy all-you-can-eat Stewart’s Shops ice cream. If we are lucky, Stewarts will bring along a promotional cow to deflect those mosquitoes that thrive in the mud. Mark also requests that you bring cash for the $6 parking kiosk as credit cards do not always work; or use/buy the Empire Pass for unlimited day-use vehicle entry. (hmrrc.com)
Back again due to popular demand, the Adirondack Runners and race director Tracy Watson, have brought us an official Race the Train replacement over the same scenic, challenging summer access dirt road we used to chase the now-defunct North Creek train along its Hudson River path. Rebranded as the Hudson River Ramble, the eight-mile race on Saturday, August 3 now launches from the Johnsburg Central School in North Creek where runners will board buses from 8-8:30am to the customary start at Riverside Station in Riparius.
After the main event, parents will be relieved to know that the One-Mile Family Fun Run/Walk (all ages welcome), will now follow the yellow brick path entirely on traffic-free school grounds. Afterwards, enjoy delicious home-baked goodies, refreshments, raffles, and the satisfaction that you supported the Johnsburg Dollars for Scholars program. (active.com)
Change is inevitable. Sometimes it works well; sometimes there are minor glitches, but for these four races at least, know that tweaks have been made to respond to your needs as much as possible.
Laura Clark (email@example.com) of Saratoga Springs is an avid trail runner, ultramarathoner, snowshoer and cross country skier. She is a children’s librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.