By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
With the proliferation of charity runs and organized fund raisers, the 5K road race has become the most popular running distance. Race directors promote 5K races that are run on certified flat-and-fast, out- and-back, traffic-free policed city roads. They promise, and often deliver, kilometer and mile splits, multiple water stops, finishing times to the nearest tenth of a second, and accurate results for national ranking purposes.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, a few local races continue to resist the trend for shorter and faster, and in the process retain a proud identity that offers the runner a unique racing experience.
The Jordan Fall Festival Alpine Classic is such a rebel race. This 8.5- mile run tests the endurance of runners by climbing and weaving over hills, traveling on back roads and trails, going into woods and fields, and wading through a wet creek crossing.
The Alpine Classic started in Elbridge in 1980. The brainchild of Hans Meixner, the run was meant to attract people to the Elbridge country fair. With the help of Tim Sandstrom and Kenneth Wilson, Meixner designed a course that took advantage of the surrounding terrain. Their goal was to create a unique experience that distracted from the inherent difficulty of cross-country running.
The resulting course was about 7.5 miles long, some on country roads and dirt trails, but most of it on private land. The hilly terrain was described by many runners as brutal. The crossing of Skaneateles Creek is about 20 feet wide. Depending on the seasonal rainfall, water varied in depth from a few inches to a couple of feet. A rope stretched across the creek guided the runners to the other bank.
Thus, the Alpine Classic was launched to the thundering blast of Meixner black powder cannon. In the decade that followed, the race continued to provide the unique experience that few local races offered. Since much of the course was on private land, runners did not have training opportunities, adding to the mystique of race day.
Unable to compete with other summer events, Elbridge held its final country fair in 1992. The Alpine Classic run ended with that final fair. However, two years later, neighboring Jordan revived the Alpine Classic run, and adopted it as part of the Jordan Fall Festival. Meixner was all too happy to help race director Richard Curry organize the new run.
The Jordan Fall Festival Alpine Classic follows the original course of the Elbridge run. A mile of dirt trail was added to accommodate a start and finish from the Jordan Festival grounds, making the new course 8.5 miles long.
As the Alpine Run reaches adulthood, it maintains many of the traits that endear runners to it. An early registration fee of only $9 includes a T-shirt to the first 125 entries and free admission to the Jordan Fall Festival, where all members of the family can enjoy games, rides and great food. Awards are given in five-year age groups, rewarding young and old alike.
Like many well kept secrets, the Alpine Classic run retains the charm of a small family race. Last year's run had 69 finishers, who worked together on completing the challenging course, and in the process enjoyed a change of pace from large city road races.
Hans Meixner died in 1995. His son, Don Meixner, continues his legacy by starting the run with the traditional roar of black powder cannon. The organizing committee commemorates the contribution of Hans to the Alpine Classic run by naming the first place award after him.
This year's Alpine Classic starts at 10am on Saturday September 19 from the Jordan Fall Festival grounds near the Erie Canal tow path. Early registration is always encouraged. Entry forms are available at many area YMCAs and sporting goods stores, or by calling Katie Hinman at 689-3729.
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.