by Benita Zahn
As runners you're probably familiar with the Facebook and Instagram posts about Christmas wish lists for Santa to cover the cost of race entries or guarantee a PR. But what is it about specific races that attract you? Why do you return to a race year after year? Breakaway Athletic Events out of Fort Collins, Colorado says, for them as a race organizing event, it's the combination of athletic safety, good weather, a fun race course, positive energy, high fives and feeling connected to other athletes. Turns out, that's what runners say as well. In asking other runners for their input the Breakaway list pretty much encompasses it all, save for fabulous swag! Yes, I did once run a half marathon, part of the DIVA races and got a pink tutu .. and no, I did not run in it but it sure came in handy that Halloween!
So what race gets you to pony up an entrance fee?
Bridget Hunt from the Syracuse area casts her votes for the Cazenovia 4th of July races. "So much fun, great community participation, fun things going on all weekend such as a parade and fireworks. They have a 5k, kids fun run and a 10 miler. The views around the lake are spectacular. Great restaurant options for after!"
Yeah! In my book that sounds like a winner!
My running pal Bonnie Barr votes for, what used to be called, the MORE Half marathon. Since we ran it back a few years ago it's morphed into the SHAPE +Health Women's Half Marathon. This year it's being held on April 30th in New York's Central Park. Yes, it's crowded and back then the expo wasn't worth the time beyond getting your running bib. But it was an opportunity for a group of gals to train and get together for a fun time in NYC. As Bonnie recalled, we would connect with other local runners and have dinner the night before and even meet for lunch afterwards. The course through Central Park is gorgeous and challenging. While there were few high fives to be shared, the encouragement of all those women was empowering. So ladies, if you're looking for ladies only run this spring, check it out.
The Freihofer's Run for Women got a number of high fives for favorite race, mine as well. Of course, race director Kristen Hislop voted for the FRFW but so did Anita De Cianni Brown. She shared that it was her first race EVER and she thought it would be a one and done. But here she is 9 and a half years later and she's still running. As she notes, the FRFW “ introduced me to the supportive running community- and some amazing friends along the way." Even Kristen got hooked on the energy of the event. The FRFW was the first race she did after arriving in the 518 from Colorado, where she regularly took part in the Danskin triathlon series, so she was already hooked on the power of an all female field. But the FRFW stepped that up. Remember, years ago it was the USATF 5k national championship race so elite runners from around the world competed. FRFW also gets the top spot nod from Heather Winders. She's honest when she says, "The cookies, the expos and something for everyone even though it's a woman's race". We'll be looking for you at the 2023 start line, Heather! Mona Kulkarni Caron and Olivia Frempong also cast their votes for FRFW.
Dave Glass, now in his 70th decade, has plenty of race memories. For him the HMRRC Labor Day 5k, along with the Troy Turkey Trot, take the cake(s). The Labor Day race, writes Dave, because it's close to home and covers an interesting and challenging course. The Troy Turkey Trot gets props because it boasts a competitive field, flat course and all the feasting that's ahead. Like many of us, Dave also likes to get out of town for a run. The James Joyce Ramble 10 in Dedham, MA is a 'standout.' It's competitive! When the weather warms, he's looking forward to USATF National Masters GP races in Richmond, VA, Sacramento, CA, Syracuse, NY, Dedham, MA and Rochester, NY. And of course, you'll find him at local HMRRC races this spring.
Jenette Nare, a ONE NY CARE CHALLENGE runner loves the Upstate Classic Half in Altamont writing, “It's such a beautiful race! I've run it in snow and sun but the views are worth it!!!” Also on her list are a couple I've never run but find intriguing. Jenette loves ' Any of the Old Forge races during their marathon weekend. They're so pretty and there are also train runs which are so much fun. Finally, she raves about the Mighty Mosquito. It's a trail relay “which was an absolute blast! 6 person team, overnight, 3 loops. So much fun even at 2 am!!” If you're interested the Mighty Mosquito is held in Pittsford, NY and is western New York's only 100-mile solo trail race. It also features a 50K distance and a 99-mile relay race. All proceeds from this race benefit the Blue Foundation, a charity organization in Canandaigua, NY.
By the way, the ONE NY CARE CHALLENGE brought runners together virtually when COVID hit. (Heather Winders was among those runners). All the money, save for what paid for medals and swag like a neck gaiter or sporty zip up, went to charity. You committed to covering a particular distance, initially by running/walking and eventually biking was included. The challenge(s) lasted months. It was a great way to get the high fives we couldn't enjoy during that time, to feel connected to other runners and carve out our own courses.
Another ONE NY CARE CHALLENGE runner Elene Nemergut, from way up north on the St. Lawrence, shared her faves and the run "SANTA” arranged for 2023. Her 'best of' list includes: Strathmore Parks Run in Syracuse. As a middle of the pack runner, she's learned it's plenty challenging including a hill leading to a water tower but once you make the climb you're treated to what she describes as a breathtaking autumn view of Syracuse. Elene also gives a thumbs up to Bound for the Hounds, a 6 hour ultra and The BackYard Ultra for Blessings in a Backpack. Both, she shared, are ultras you can do as much as you are able to and the funds go to some great causes. Thanks to her mom, who played Santa this Christmas, she's got an entry and her sites on her first marathon: The Sackets Harbor Marathon and Half Marathon. You go Elene!
Richard Loud's running dance card is also filling up with favorite runs. He's crossed the finish line 5 times at the Vermont City Marathon on Memorial Day weekend and the Adirondack Marathon in September, where he's been a pacer. He's already put his name in to be a pace leader in Vermont, so if you run it this spring, keep an eye out for him.
Kelly Harrington Salinas chooses the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon (MHRM) for sentimental reasons! It was my most dedicated training cycle, as I was trying to break 4 hours in the marathon. But at the MHRM in 2016, I suddenly pulled a 3:31 (30 min + faster than any of my previous times and still my PR), and this race made my Boston Marathon dreams come true - I never even dreamed to that point that I could ever make it to Boston. MHRM holds a very special place in my heart!
Brenda Hoffman-Abelgore states Miles on the Mohawk in May is my favorite. I prefer 10 mile races, not really sure why, but it's a fun run & I love to see my OneNY friends to celebrate afterwards. As much as I thought I'd hate it, my husband finally got me to do the Mountain Goat. I hate hills but can do them apparently. Again, it's another 10 mile race and a fun celebration afterwards. We did the Wineglass Half Marathon this year and I am looking forward to doing it again I'm 2023. Maybe a race PR, maybe not, but I love the celebration at the end and just the vibe of the race.
My former colleague and accomplished news photographer Kevin Montano hails from Utica so it's little wonder the Boilermaker 15K tops his list. For him it's more than the course itself, it comes back to those high fives. “The way a city the size of Utica can come together and support thousands of runners on a Sunday in July is just incredible.” As for the coming year, his race calendar looks like this: repeat trips to the Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon, Boilermaker 15K and the Stockade-athon 15K. As for the fall, he's still on the lookout for a marathon that calls to him.
As much as I love the FRFW and the Troy Turkey Trot as mentioned in the beginning, the Boilermaker 15k is a sentimental favorite. 24 years ago, as I ran it for the first time, I committed to running a marathon with my friend Joanne and also decided I would marry my husband. I'm not sure how the two decisions are linked (must have been the heat!!) but I never regretted either!
In the end the folks at Breakaway Athletic Events got it right. As Kevin puts it so succinctly, “What makes a great race can be measured in so many ways. I’ve had great race experiences at races big and small. While I love a big race with great swag, lots of amenities and an operation that can best be described as a Swiss watch, I’ve also had so much fun running the small local races that epitomize the camaraderie and support of the running community."
About Dr. Benita Zahn
Benita is a certified Health and Wellness Coach working with clients at Capital Cardiology Associates. Benita spent more than 40 years as a health reporter and news anchor at WNYT in Albany, NY. She covered issues such as wellness, treatment breakthroughs, aging, nutrition, and the latest health care trends. Benita’s work has taken her around the world and across the USA. Benita is a contributor to the weekly “Live Smart” page in the Times Union, the HMRRC Pacesetter and the new magazine 55+LIVING. Benita also created and co-hosts the podcast EVERYTHING THEATER.