(Originally Published on Runners World Loop 11/12/11)
I grew up with a large apple orchard behind my house. Running around in the orchard was “normal” – not running as in training or exercising, but running as in playing. So when I’m offered an opportunity to run a race in an orchard, it brings back a lot of fond memories. Orchards in Southern Arizona are rare – but we do have pecan groves. The Pecan Classic 8.5 mile race, held in the pecan groves in Sahuarita, AZ, was the second race of 2011 to go through the trees (see my RW Loop blog here about the first event, Breeze in the Trees).
We arrived under cool, cloudy skies - perfect for a nice race. The parking and packet pick-up area was a huge lot “paved” with pecan shells. Race Director Steve Taggert of Tagg Running Events (who is a very good runner himself) was busy with his usual high-energy pre-race preparations.
Lots of our friends were mulling about, picking up the nice tech-tees and bib numbers. I think there were something like 450-500 registrants.
I ran the 8.5 mile race, and my 13-year old son, Jason, ran the 1.5 mile Nut Run. There was also a 3.7 mile race, and we had a bunch of friends who ran that distance. Jason was able to take some pictures during my race, since the Nut Run didn’t start until a couple of hours after the other races. I’m planning on running a half marathon tomorrow, so I was cautious at the start. Unfortunately I’m dealing with a bit of a calf strain in my right leg. Last year, I ran this race in 57:19 and I was hoping to go a little faster than that this year. Except for the calf pain, I felt pretty good early on so I tried to establish a steady pace.
My friend Martin was running a similar pace for the first half of the race, which helped me keep my focus. This picture shows me chasing Martin at about the 1 mile mark, after a loop around a portion of the orchard before we headed South into the larger grove of trees.
I finished the race in 55:22, almost a 2 minute improvement over last year. That was good enough for 1st in my age group. Some of my friends ran great races as well - I know that Ed, Kyle, Bruce, Terri, Robin, Justin, and many others beat their goals. Here’s a photo of Bruce (Loopster "Tucson Strider") kicking it in.
The real excitement of the day for me was watching Jason race in the Nut Run. Jason’s planning to run a 5k tomorrow and today’s race was supposed to be a practice run for him. He’s very good at pacing himself rather than getting caught up with others early on, and today it paid off handsomely. When the race began, he was pretty far back but having fun:
When I next saw him, he was heading down the home stretch…in first place! He had passed everyone in front and was looking strong. He had a couple of runners trying to catch up but he kicked it in and held on for his first ever overall race win.
He received a finisher’s ribbon but also got a very cool handmade trophy!
Needless to say, this Dad was quite proud of his Son.
We cleaned up with the awards today. I won a mug for my age group award, and we also both got a special coin since we ran both of the pecan races in 2011 (Breeze in the Trees 5k in the summer, and Pecan Classic today).
If you have Pecan Pie this Thanksgiving, it’s quite possible that the pecans were grown where we raced this morning!