Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Race Too Tough to Die?

A short race report as I continue my gradual catching up.  The Tombstone Vigilante Days 10k Run has become a Southern Arizona tradition, and August 12, 2012 brought us the 26th edition of this challenging race.

The course is slightly longer than 10k, it’s at about 4,500 feet elevation, and it has some pretty hard hills.  Returning racers know that this won’t be a PR event, but we also know that the reward for the lucky few is one of the coolest out there – a handmade tombstone trophy.  It’s also one of those unique events that has location appeal – a fun historical contrast is to see modern runners hanging out in front of the infamous OK Corral, where the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday fought the Clantons and McLaurys.

 For those of us in Tucson, it requires a very early start to the day as the drive Southward to Tombstone takes over an hour.  The weather this year was warm and clear.   My last race was the San Francisco Marathon 2 weeks earlier, and while I was eager to run I also was still dealing with hernia surgery pain so wasn’t expecting a great run.  By the time we lined up at the start, I was tired from the drive and not in a full “ready-to-go” state of mind.

Once we got going I knew it wasn’t my day.  I felt sluggish from the start and when the first hills came, I was already struggling.  I kept on as best I could, but I certainly wasn't feeling like a tough cowboy.  There was one point where a huge snake was in the road – but on closer inspection it became clear that it had been run over so was no threat.  They put a couple of misting stations at the top of the major hill climbs and those helped cool me briefly, but the warm sun also took its toll.  The race finishes along Tombstone’s Main Street – here’s a photo of my friend Steve O. cruising towards the finish:

 I finally crossed the line at 43:13, over a minute slower than last year.  I was 10th place overall, but only 5th in my 10-year age group.  The first and second overall were also in my age group, but the organizers do things their own way and allowed “double-dipping” this year.  So, the winners got several awards and this year I didn’t get a tombstone (last year I won a tombstone for overall masters male).  I didn’t mind too much because I really don’t think I ran very well anyway, but I always think that it’s silly to give multiple awards to the same people, and I think that races should have a no-double-dipping policy to spread the awards out.

After the race, we tried to get all the Tucson runners together for a group photo.  We missed a few but here are most of us.

Tombstone is known as “The Town Too Tough to Die”, and it is now a fun tourist attraction.  But I have to wonder about the race itself – is it too tough to die?  I’ve noticed a gradual attrition in the quality of the race as well as the number of attendees.  This year’s race had just 100 or so runners.  The organizers do not appear to be runners themselves, and the event is part of the larger Vigilante Days weekend.  The T-shirt quality has declined, and for the past 2 years they no longer post results to the web.  I enjoy the race, and would be sad but not be surprised if they decided to discontinue it.

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