Greetings, SF FrontRunners!
Sweet 16. Hawaii 5-0. Heinz 57. Route 66. Some numbers have iconic associations with American culture. And when one’s birthday rolls around, that age can tie into a theme. Turning 31? Get ice-cream at Baskin-Robbins. How about 76? See The Music Man and all the trombones in the big parade.
I hit 48 in a couple of weeks and have been mulling over what this number symbolizes. The best I can come up with is the Lower 48. So without further ado, I dedicate this column to lauding some of the creatively themed road races this season in the continental US.
What’s noteworthy about this race is not the course, but the fact that actual gator-head trophies are awarded to the top finishers. In the organizers’ own words, “these taxidermied gator heads are purchased from a gator farm in Florida, which would toss them onto a trash heap. Instead, your gator's head can live in infamy in your trophy case. Their bases are planks from Charleston Heart Pine, and the engraving is wood-burned by hand, thus all ingredients (except for the gator's eyes) are natural.”
The Race Director doubles as the Hell Hole Poet Laureate and composes a poem while the runners are on the course. The poem is recited after the award ceremony at the Hell Hole Swamp Festival Parade, in which the eight top finishers ride on a float (the flat-bed of a pick-up truck).
This 5K run and walk caters to husky Midwestern firemen and their admirers. While most races divide categories up by sex and age, this race offers three heavyweight divisions for men, including those weighing upwards of 220. Bear lovers, take note! Show ‘em some puppy love.
All Roads Lead to Foam! The 5k Foam Fest is truly santorum-esque—a heady mix of foam, mud, and obstructions. The course challenges you with foam, huge inflatable obstacles, army crawls, colossal walls, mud pits, more foam, cargo net climbs, body washer, moon walk, still more foam, slip ‘n’ slides, and water obstacles. Get dirty, then clean, then dirty and clean again and again with other revelers at this froth fest.
Run for the hills! This extreme obstacle course with mud galore one-ups the Reno Foam Fest above: prizes go to the fastest and the ones who can carry the most greased pigs.
This 16-mile relay is a spiritual retreat, taking you through rocky canyons, desert trails, and Indian villages on the Hopi reservation. Teams must be strictly co-ed with two male and two female runners, each running the same four-mile leg. The race goes forward in all weather conditions—rain, snow, hail, wind, and shine—but NOT lightning! Clearly, this has been a hazard in the past.
This is one race I can actually lay claim to having run. The course winds through a rural Boston suburb, with grassy fields, fragrant woodlands, rocky outcroppings, and authentic colonial buildings. This event is the brainchild of Martin Casimir Hanley, an avid runner and James Joyce fan, who, over a long cold winter in the early 1980s, was struggling through Finnegan’s Wake. It occurred to him that slogging through this work was as tough as training for a race. And thus the ramble was born.
Some two dozen costumed actors read the works of Joyce aloud along the route, including Finnegan's Wake, Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Exiles, Dubliners, and, finally in the last mile, The Dead. The race has since become a lucrative fundraiser for international human rights and free speech organizations, and some performers read the work in translation—Chinese, Spanish, and other languages.
Limited to a maximum of 550 women, the Tri Goddess Triathlon’s mission is to inspire women of all fitness abilities to set and reach new health and fitness goals through the training and completion of a triathlon. The inaugural event was the first ever all-women's triathlon/duathlon in Michigan. The organizers are “women who know how to make a triathlon special.” There’s also a mini sprint race for women trying their first triathlon. The location is remote, quiet, beautiful, and safe. This is THE PLACE TO BE for women who love being with other women.
Elvis fans, rejoice! This 5K run is but one jewel in the crown of All Things Elvis. The full four-day festival includes parades of people and pets, a beauty pageant, movie poster exhibit, Sunday Gospel concert, carnival midway, a shuttle bus to The King’s birthplace, and a tribute artist concert that goes on for days. You may want to run your blue suede shoes all the way to Blue Hawaii to escape the madness.
Bottom line: there’s a run to tickle everyone’s fancy and up the ante. I haven’t even mentioned the many regional food-themed runs (Sauerkraut Days and Bratwurst Nights), or the impressive list of social causes to run for or illnesses to run against.
In the Bay Area, we’re blessed to have such rollicking events as the Bay to Breakers and the Wharf to Wharf, plus the SF FrontRunners’ very own Pride Run. If you’re planning to attend the FrontRunners Annual Meeting on October 20 in St. Louis, you can take part in the St. Louis Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half the next day. The fun never ends when you’re a runner!
San Francisco FrontRunners