Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Good Evenings

It's summer, which means it's the season for evening road races.

Anyone who ran track or cross country in school won't find any novelty in racing in the evening. Track events have always been scheduled for any time during the day, and in this age of electric lighting, any time during the night as well. During the week track meets are more likely to be scheduled after classes, which puts them in the late afternoon or early evening rather than the morning. Cross-country meets are scheduled similarly, with only Saturday races being slated for the morning, probably so that everyone can go watch college football in the afternoon and evening. Still, even on a Saturday, a cross-country meet may be scheduled for the afternoon so that out-of-town teams can more conveniently travel to the race.

Road races, on the other hand, are almost exclusively events of the early morning. There are some oddballs out there, like a small 26.2-mile run in Massachusetts that traditionally starts at noon, probably because of the difficulty in traveling to the starting line in the village of Hopkinton, and possibly because of a desire to promote heat stroke among the competitors. There are also a handful of midnight runs out there, most notably on the cusp of the New Year, as represented by the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run in New York City's Central Park. Why take your chances with the pick-pockets in Times Square when you can run with the muggers in Central Park?

Most of the road races scheduled in exception to the early morning rule are summer evening races. If the early evening is chosen to avoid the heat, then someone has made a serious miscalculation. In north Florida, summer daytime temperatures peak at about 4:00 PM ET. By 6:00 or 7:00 PM, the air hasn't cooled off much, and the pavement not at all. Possibly evening races are scheduled to take advantage of the additional hours of daylight available during the summer, but that doesn't explain Fort Walton Beach, Florida's Billy Bowlegs Midnight Run (which contrarily starts at 10:30 PM) or the Kiwanis Midnight Run in Dunedin, Florida (which is run at midnight on a course lit by luminaries). In the absence of a fully rational explanation, maybe these races are scheduled for the night or evening because it's fun to run then.

The "summer" during which these evening races are scheduled in the Tallahassee area is the same "summer" during which public swimming pools are open and it's acceptable to wear white, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. A few of Tallahassee's evening races have already come and gone--the "Miccosukee Pie Run" and "A Midsummer Night's Run" were with us for years but are no more. There are still a few left either in Tallahassee or a short drive away.

Memorial Day Night Race 5K (25 May 2009 @ 7:00 PM ET, Bainbridge, Georgia)
This was the third year that this race has been held. Unfortunately, it was the second year that no results were published, an inexcusable oversight. This is too bad, because it's otherwise a fine event on a good course that raises money for the local high school's cross-country team.

Potluck Bash Four-Mile Run (13 June 2009 @ 6:00 PM ET, Tallahassee, Florida)
The "Potluck" course is reputedly a bit short of four miles, but it's a cross-country course, so you'd be foolish to expect a high degree of accuracy. The "Potluck" is also a prediction run, which relieves you of the pressure to run a fast time, unless you're trying to stack up points in Gulf Winds Track Club's Grand Prix series. The "Bash" is a potluck dinner held following the race at Forestmeadows Athletic Center, and is followed by a ceremony honoring the top local high school cross country, track, and field athletes. The race raises money for Gulf Winds Track Club's Chenoweth Fund, which promotes youth running.

Summer Sizzler 5K (27 June 2009 @ 7:30 PM ET, St George Island, Florida).
Go to the beach and run a race! How much more fun can you pack into a day? The Summer Sizzler is held under the aegis of the Tate's Hell Track Club and is run on a flat, USATF certified course. Unfortunately, this year the race started ten minutes before the published starting time. Late starts are annoying but early starts--well, they won't win you any friends.

Critter Run 5K (18 July 2009 @ 6:00 PM ET, Dothan, Alabama).
Hot, hot, hot. The Critter Run is contested on a USATF certified course that traverses rolling hills in the neighborhoods north of Dothan's Westgate Park. The Dothan Runners' Club always seems to get this one right, and throw a great post-race party as well.

Run For Love Evening Run 5K. (8 August 2009 @ 7:15 PM ET, Tifton, Georgia).
The Run For Love 5K course is not certified, but it appears to be accurate. The route circles the campus of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, with a short excursion into the farmland near the school. It's not flat, but the slopes are gentle, and there's a lot of downhill on the last half-mile of the race. It's a fair course--more than a few people have run fast times here, but that was because they were fast runners, not because it's a fast course. If you're ready to run fast, you'll be able to do it here. If you don't then go ahead and blame it on the heat.