By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Daylight savings time ushers the beginning of the summer road racing season. If the difference between a jogger and a runner is a race entry form, then the difference between a runner and a racer is a race calendar. A carefully planned racing season separates a racer from a runner. A runner runs for fun and fitness, and enters the occasional race. Fast or slow, a racer runs to race. Racing is where health ends, and competition begins. Split-second times, PR's, age-group awards, injuries and lost opportunities are the language of the racer.
I am a racer. I plan my racing calendar carefully, a year at a time. I train to race. I do not enter races at a whim. I do not let racing interfere with my training. I divide my year into seasons: base running in winter, hill training in spring, intervals and road racing in summer, and indoor track racing in the fall. During my summer season, I enter two races per month. I run an easy long run during the off-week. This gives my body time to recover, and my mind time to refocus.
The Mountain Goat 10-miler (740 finishers in 1996, scheduled for April 26, 1997) is the start of my road racing season. The course starts in downtown Syracuse. It climbs up to one water tower on the west side. The descent towards half-way is highlighted by the smell of fresh bread from Brighton Bakery. The course climbs again to another water tower, on the east side of town. It finishes downhill towards downtown. This year's start and finish at Armory Square promise a larger post-race party. The old 3K companion race used to be the only 3K road race in the area. The new 5K is a poor substitute.
The Stride for Pride 5K (87 finishers in 1996, May 10, 1997) is a sentimental favorite. Many years ago, I ran my PR there, then proposed to my wife. Although I was in oxygen debt, she said yes! The course starts and ends near Fayetteville Mall. It runs flat on the Erie Canal tow path. Porcelain mugs were nice age group awards. Last year's plastic water bottles were disappointing. The companion 15K race can get very lonely out on the tow path.
The Race For The Cure 5K (983 finishers in 1996, May 17, 1997) has a special meaning to our family, transformed forever by breast cancer. It is one of many national races by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. It aims to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research and education. I have volunteered in previous Syracuse races. My children ran in honor of their mother one year, then in her memory the next year. This is a very emotional race. The difficult course symbolizes the fight. More runners than racers run this race.
The Yellow Brick Road Run 8K (163 finishers in 1996, June 7, 1997) starts at the fire house in Chittenango, NY, the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz". One of the few 8K races in the area, it is a low key well organized little town race. All the necessities and few of the frills make it a good race. The course follows quiet country roads over rolling hills and vibrant village streets.
The Swamp Rat 5K (271 finishers in 1996, June 14, 1997) starts and ends at the Oneida Shores State Park. The course follows a relatively flat route along the lake shore. It is well organized and well attended. A huge number of door prizes liven the post-race party. The companion 10K had 447 runners in 1996.
Cazenovia 4th of July 5K (1996: 379 finishers) was my first 5K. The runner whom I passed in the chute has become my next door neighbor. She will not let me forget my lapse in sportsmanship on that day. The hilly 5K course goes through the village of Cazenovia. The companion 10-mile race (451 finishers in 1996) goes around Cazenovia Lake. This year is the race's 25th anniversary.
Utica Boilermaker 15K (5,566 finishers in 1996, July 13, 1997) is the largest race in Central New York. The crowd support is amazing. School bands and street parties line the course. The race turns 20 this year. The organizers hope to make it the largest 15K in the country with 10,000 runners. Not too many runners should expect PR's this year.
Chase Corporate Challenge 3.5 miles (5,268 entrants in 1996, August 5, 1997), fondly remembered as the Mani-Hani, is a carnival of running and corporate pride. It starts and finishes in Griffin Field. The course runs flat on a smoldering Onondaga Lake Parkway. The race uses an honor system to score team competition. Winning teams participate in the international Chase Corporate Challenge competition in New York City.
Willow Bay 5K Women's Race (145 finishers in 1996, September 13, 1997) proves that running can be a spectator sport. This is my opportunity to watch sixty percent of my family run and sweat. A hot cup of coffee in hand, I enjoy the changing leaves along Onondaga Lake Park. Lots of donated prizes and free food spice up the small race flavor.
Syracuse Festival of Races 5K (separate men's and women's races, 353 men and 327 women finished in 1996; October 5, 1997) is the mental end of my road racing season. The race starts and finishes at Manley Field House. It follows a fast flat course along Meadowbrook Drive. Many elite athletes entered in recent years, and numerous national age group records were set.
Last year was a busy road racing year for me. I set PR's at many distances. I plan to take it easy this year. I will expand my horizons, and explore some new races. My favorite races may never be the same again.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.