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Dr. J. on Running

Summer Days

Planning the Racing Calendar

Published April 3, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The spring running season has begun. Daylight savings time, a futile practice that has long outlived its usefulness, robs morning runners of an hour of daylight. We reach back to our reflective vests for a few more weeks. The extra hour of light at the end of the day permits many procrastinators to run a few miles before dinner.

For this morning runner, April ushers the return of the road racing season. As George Sheehan said, the only reason we run is to race. In my case, summer translates into one long race and one shorter race each month. Thus, April is a time to take stock of my fitness level and to select my races.

The first task is trivially simple this year. My fitness level is at an all-time low. I grew two and a half percent older and ten percent heavier than last year, while my mileage and speed shrunk towards oblivion. As work and injury took over my calendar, I drifted from the ranks of racers to those of joggers.

Setting aside self-pity and gloom, I took my calendar and pencilled my target races. The Mountain Goat 10-miler at the end of April used to be my season opener. This year it comes too soon for me. I will probably watch from the roadside and cheer on the hearty souls.

The Canal 5 K in Fayetteville lost its longer sibling. The late Stride for Pride 15 K used to be an April favorite. I may have to thank the organizers when I realize how much farther a 15 K is really.

June is the month of the munchkins and the Swamp Rat. The front end of June brings the Yellow Brick Road 8K race in Chittenango, while the tail end gives a choice between the Swamp Rat 5K and 10K races at the Oneida Lake Shores. I expect to be in shape to race the 10K. If not, the Bill O'Brian 5K race in Oswego brings back memories of a fellow runner and writer.

The July 4th Cazenovia races bring onboard new directors. This reminds me that I need to finish designing the entry form to restore peace at home. Anticipated road construction on Route 20 may bring unnecessary excitement. Five days later, the Boilermaker breathes life into Utica. Sadly, the organizers fixed that which was not broken. They diluted the majesty of the 15K race by adding an unnecessary 5K run.

August is a month of contrasts. The Corporate Challenge on the first Tuesday stretches runner tolerance by packing seven thousand joggers and walkers between a hot dog diner and a dirty lake. A few days later, the Phelps Sauerkraut 20K brings a new meaning to the loneliness of the long distance runner. Even the cattle shake their heads in disbelief at our sight.

I abandon the roads for the trails with the start of cross country season in September. The woods are more forgiving than the roads. They are gentler on the knees, and more discrete with the occasional walk in the middle of a race. The Upstate New York series features a spirited rivalry among runners from Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. In mid-month, the Jordan Alpine amphibious run prepares the soul for an unlimited supply of fried dough at the festival.

Thus ends my tentative planning for the summer. To date, none of my children has ever beaten me in a race, and I intend to keep it this way, one race at a time, at least for one more season. The secret to restoring my fitness to the levels of yesteryear lies in another spring ritual: Wednesday morning Highland Forest runs. Soon, we commit another academic year to the archives, and set free those college captives yearning for nature and solitude.

When can we expect Internet access at Highland Forest?

Kamal Jabbour runs through Pratts Falls Park in preparation for the Highland Forest runs. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains TrackMeets.com, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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