Sunday, March 4, 2012

Over the River and Through the Lights

(Originally Published on Runners World Loop 12/12/11)
It’s humorous that one of the most common running routes in Tucson is called the Rillito River Path, even though there is almost never any water flowing in the “river”.  It’s a dry wash, but that’s what we have here in the desert.  So although it’s not quite as beautiful as the river paths in many other cities, it still provides runners with a place to get away from vehicular traffic.  The path is gradually being expanded and eventually it’s supposed to become a fairly long 50-mile or so loop.
Races occasionally happen on the path, like yesterday’s 3rd annual Rillito River Run.  The event benefits Volunteer Southern Arizona, and includes both 10k and 5k races.  The course goes along the river path, and crosses over the "river" on a bridge and back over on another.  This year it occurred on the same weekend as the Tucson Marathon, but it still had over 200 runners.  The Race Director, Justin Parker, does an amazing job pulling together sponsors and managing a very smooth event (probably thanks to the help he gets from his wife Mindi and their kids)!  They provide really nice tech-T’s, and the goody bag is probably the best I’ve received from any race this year.  They also took some great race photos and posted them on FaceBook – some of the photos below are from their FB albums.
It was a beautiful morning for a race yesterday, and the starting area at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park was a good place to warm up and get ready to run.
The start line wasn’t too crowded, so I was up front – I’m the guy in the right of this picture, in black shirt, getting my watch started.  Next to me is my friend Janet, who was the female 10k winner.
I took off at about a 6:20 pace, and was feeling good.  Since I had run the marathon in Vegas less than 6 days earlier, I was being careful but my legs felt O.K. so I kept it up.  I was in first place by the 1-mile mark, and kept that position the rest of the race.  I didn’t even go off course!  The path is slightly downhill for the first half, then turns back and is uphill the second.  This photo shows me on the river path, after mile 6 and ready to turn back in to the park for the finish.
I finished in 39:25, which was about 4.5 minutes faster than my time in this race last year (when I had an injured foot from a trail run trip-up).  I was quite happy because I didn’t really have any significant leg pain.  I actually got 1st place overall, which was pretty exciting!
I was also happy that my wife, Pam, ran in the 10k.  She has been plagued with injuries this year and only recently has tried to return to regular training.  She ran slower than she normally would, but the important thing was that she held her pace and finished feeling o.k.  She got 2nd in her age group.  I ran back to grab my camera, and took this photo as she neared the finish.
We both got gift certificates for awards.  This event’s one that I hope to do for many years to come, and I hope more runners join in!
I’m writing this on Sunday evening, so I’ll add a short comment on today’s running activities.  I joined in on the fun for the Southern Arizona Roadrunners Winterhaven Run Through the Lights, an annual social run/walk that winds through the Christmas light displays in the small community of Winterhaven.  It’s also a benefit run for the Community Food Bank and we gathered something like 1,400 cans of food for them!  There were around 700 runners wearing all kinds of festive gear (I wore my Santa jacket and some red glow bands).  Definitely a fun time for all!  I took my camera along and snapped a few pics.

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