Wow. I’ll say it again. Wow!! I’ve been to dozens of races and over time – once you’ve experienced a well run race – it’s very difficult to participate in a race that’s poorly run. I suppose on that front I’ve become sort of a race snob. It’s not about the expo, the swag bag or the carb-loading pre-race dinner. Although I adore all of those things, what makes a great race for me is that it starts on time, there’s no possible chance of getting lost because it’s so well-marked, the volunteers actually seem enthusiastic to be there (I ran a race where the volunteers were fulfilling community service hours. Not so fun), the mile markers are accurate and at the finish there’s something adequate to snack on, the water is cold and it’s so much fun you wish it could last just a few more hours. Yes, I am a race snob. I’ve had friends encourage me to start my own race. Absolutely not. As much as I want well run races, the very thought of being a race director is abhorrent to me. I know how much work it takes and, quite honestly, I don’t want to do it. This may seem hypocritical however I can tell you that I am so appreciative to those directors that put in the time and effort for a well run race. Truly, truly appreciative because I KNOW how hard it is and I don’t want to do it myself…. They are amazing!
Running with the Bears has been on my radar since I heard about the inaugural race last year. Shauna (one of the fearless leaders) and Josie (race director) were amazing at keeping us all informed (there were fires nearby and people were worried about smoke) and have one of the most organized, fun events I’ve been to. If you’re looking to qualify for Boston, the marathon is a qualifying race. Altitude is 3500 feet (low for me), but otherwise it’s flat and relatively easy so an excellent choice for qualifying. I’m
spoiled blessed to have my coach here in Reno also as the race director for most of the events I attend so I hold other races to a very high standard. The mile markers were spot on, the course was very well-marked and I don’t know how they got so many volunteers who were absolutely ecstatic to be there cheering us on at aid stations (an aid station every 2.5 miles!) but it was amazing. She did a competition with aid stations that the runners voted on to determine who’s was the best. There were boas and hats, a team dressed as hillbillies, another like gypsies and at another there was a (really good) live band playing rock. Every aid station had a porta-potty which, although I didn’t have to use, is a nice sight to see in the event you DO need one. Half a mile before the end, I could hear something but couldn’t put my finger on it. At .3 remaining and at the top of the biggest hill on the course, there was a woman playing the violin. Just amazing. There’s a picture of me and the violinist in the local paper. Two great things about that. One, it was such a pleasant surprise and really was a moment that “made my day”, two now I’m a celebrity in Greenville. I can handle it.
The race itself is in the sleepy, beautiful town of Greenville, CA. Farming community with rolling green hills and winding roads. Parking was in a cow pasture (the gentleman helping us park apologized for the “mess” because the cows were there until that morning). Everything about the race was seamless. We drove the two hours that morning, getting up at 4 am to arrive on time. For anyone wanting to make a weekend out of the event, Shauna had given us a plethora of ideas from motels, bed and breakfasts to camp sites and in the future, I’ll take her up on that. There was a pre race dinner the night before and a Luau at 5 pm race evening that retrospectively I would have thoroughly enjoyed attending.
It’s cooler in Greenville than in Reno, so the temperatures were very bearable. The first 3 miles of the half marathon were also the first half of the 10K out and back. The course is all on roads (Shauna didn’t have to block the roads off. They’re not heavily travelled in the small town and the townspeople were just polite when they drove by) with views of the surrounding mountains and pastures. It had rained the night before and that morning so the fog (and some residual smoke) was nestled in the valleys creating an etherial view. The sun tried to peek through off and on but for the first half of the run we experience thunder and lightning and at mile 5.5 about ten minutes of a light but steady rainfall. We ran past goats, horses, cows and dogs lazily guarding their owners homes. I waxed nostalgic for my grandmothers home in New Hampshire that I visited when I was a child as well as the years I lived in Vermont. There was only one hill that could be deemed as such and the winding, rolling hills were a pleasure to run on. In the early afternoon the sun finally won in its quest to appear, warming all of us. The pigs for the Luau were being prepared as well as the area designated for the petting zoo for the families with children. I hadn’t brought my own kids – just Chris and I came, however next year it will most assuredly be a family event – even though the shortest race is a 10K and most of my kids won’t participate in the run. The volunteers all had walkie talkies and communicated who was coming to the finish line so as everyone came down the last section, the loudspeaker called you by first name (based on your race bib number), congratulating each finisher. Crossing that finish line hearing my first name called out felt akin to coming home.
With staggered start times, I finished the half marathon and walked the 10K course to run Chris in which was a pleasant treat. He finished first in his age division for the 10K for the first time with a time of 1:04, and although he’s not a super people person, he really connected with several people there and enjoyed the event.
I finished 14th overall for the half marathon, 5th woman and 2nd in my age division. My advice to anyone who wants to boast impressive stats like that – enter a race with only 20 participants!! Kidding. There were 146 entrants in the half marathon, 105 in the 10K and 53 in the marathon. Small, quaint, beautiful and well executed in all ways. A perfect race.
Even the paramedics boasted fun signs
Rock band. They literally rocked!!