The last weekend of September saw two popular races go off on Sunday morning: The Falling Leaves 14K in Utica which includes a scenic run through the South Woods and the Strathmore Parks Run that includes an awesome hill top run around the reservoir and the water tower.
Sunday was a rainy day, and I am certain the ominous weather, especially in Syracuse, kept many runners away. However, if you chose to make the trip out to Utica the rain did not fall. The Falling Leaves Run was dry and fast. The temperature was cool and perfect for running. On the other hand, the Park Run, which commenced at 2pm, was affected by a continuous downpour. I stood by cheering the runners on for their last lap of Hiawatha lake and then for their final turn to the finish. All the runners were drenched.
Now with the details, as many as I can recall since I was neglect of duty and did not write immediately following either run.
I ran the Falling Leaves with my buddy Todd, and we met his neighbor Annmarie just before the start. Todd was dealt a bad blow. His race number, on a Sunday, missing Mass, was 666. That's not good. No one wants "that number". Yet he ran well and finished feeling good. Although its not a good sign to receive the "number of the beast" before a run, the good news was the T-Shirt. As in previous years, the give-away was a dark blue, long sleeve tech shirt with the Falling Leaves logo in orange . Very nice.
Like last year the race was staged from the Radisson Hotel on Genesee St. and offers the runners a nice venue for pre race and post race comforts, clean bathrooms and showers, and the usual bagels and refreshments. Before the canon fires to kick off the run, all stand tall, hats and hands over their hearts while a young lady sings our National Anthem. Soon, the canon fires and runners bolt across the starting line (U2s, Its a Beautiful Day rang in my ears as I started since any day running is a beautiful day) and begin the uphill run down Genesee St. to Oneida St. and a left on the Parkway to Valley View Golf Course. All is uphill, generally a gradual grade. Once into the course which follows the same route as the Boilermaker the elevation changes and veers off the Boilermaker route and heads into and up the trails of the South Woods. Here is where I took my first short sip of water.
The South Woods are a series of well manicured trails that wind upwards among tall trees whose leaves are a variety of colors. The inclines are sometimes gradual, but more steep. I hate hills, but love going down. So, running down the trails of the South Woods make the energy push up the hills well worth the struggle. The only caution of the South Woods trails are the wet leaves on the ground and the many turns that are tight. They remind me of the hills the Road Runner runs as he is chased by Wylie Coyote. The good news is there aren't any falling anvils.
Once the runners return to the bottom of the hill, they exit at the same water stop they entered on. Here I took a GU and some water for the final run out of the golf course and the home stretch from Park St. to Oneida, and the down hill sprint to the finish line on Genesee St. I felt good. I stayed with a couple of women who seemed determined to finish strong, and they kept me at a steady pace. As I turned onto Genesee St. the finish line comes into view gradually. Once its visible the slight grad decline begins. Your speed picks up. I picked up the pace passing the women and one guy just before the finish while listening to Billy Joel's New York State of Mind.
Todd ditched Annmarie about a 1/4 miles from the end. He insists that she told him to go ahead, but I don't believe it. He promised too stay with her. It must have been the "number" that drove him to abandon a friend just before the finish. Annmarie finished right behind Todd. Everyone had a good time and we can't wait for next year's run.
Regarding the Park Run, I only participated as a spectator so my scope is blunted, but I'll give a few highlights. I stood in the pouring rain wearing my black Mets cap, a blue running wind breaker to resist the water, and jeans. I was soaked by the end of the race. I stood by the "crossroads": the area where the runners entered back into the park to run their last lake loop before cutting across to the finish line stretch. There were many of my friends who run with Lake Effect, young kids, high school kids, older guys, and ageless women. It is great to observe all the varied runners, its very inspiring to this day.
John, a Strathmore resident and organizer of the run had one of his sons running. The young lad only runs this race and doesn't train that hard for it, but he always finishes the race. he looked great. Bob, who runs faster when he is not running with me, had trouble passing a young girl on that last loop, and, if I remember correctly, didn't pass her. She finished really strong. John, Brandi's husband, barely beat a young girl across the finish; rumor has it that he knocked her down inches before the finish and squeaked in by a nose. It can be competitive out there.
Ray said he didn't make it in time to register and decided to go home. he called me as I approached the park. He blamed traffic on 81. I think he was scared of the rain. Ray, if you read this, I want you to look at Brandi when you go into work and acknowledge her courage to finish the park run after she had already run earlier that morning at the Lube Run. She has guts and is an example to us all of true grit and determination. Congratulations Brandi and John for demonstrating a capacity to push each other further each time out.
All in all, it was a good day. In the words of Bono, "... a beautiful day."
See you on the road.